Skip to main content

Full text of "Writings in Time of War"

See other formats

in Tjme of War 

By the same author: 












in Time of War 










Introduction 14 

I Awakening to the Cosmos 18 

11 Communion with Earth 28 

in Communion with God 46 

iv Communion with God through Earth 57 



Introduction 75 

1 The Two Halves of Truth 76 

11 The Clash 84 

in Harmony 87 

A possible interpretation of the form of the world 93 











6 Contents 


1 Existence 290 

11 The Nature of the Universal Element 292 

in The Properties of Christ, the Universal Element 299 

INDEX 303 

Editorial Note 

The French edition (Merits du temps de la Guerre), 
from which this translation has been made, 
follows the exact text of Pere Teilhard's auto- 
graph manuscripts without any alteration except, 
for the convenience of the reader, in the typo- 
graphic presentation. The editors' introductory 
notes to the essays are printed in italic. Pere 
Teilhard's own footnotes have been included, 
and distinguished from those of the editors by 
the addition of his name. The date of com- 
position is given at the end of each essay. 


Pere Teilhard de Chardin's war-time letters to his cousin Mar- 
guerite Teillard-Chambon 1 will have familiarized those who 
have read them with the early stages of his thought, and drawn 
their attention to the existence of a number of essays written at 
the front during the same period. 

It is quite staggering to see a man working as a stretcher- 
bearer 2 in that ghastly fighting, living for the most part in the 
mud of the trenches, and at the same time taking advantage of 
his too brief rest periods to jot down on paper his notes and plans 
(cf. Making of a Mind, pp. 1 13-14, 241), to be worked up later 
into essays that dealt with the most profound problems. 

As each was finished, it was sent off to his cousin (ibid. p. 189) 
or to his sister Guiguite (p. 135), or to one of his fellow-Jesuits, 
sometimes in the hope that it might be published (pp. 1 51 , 209). 
At times he would ask his sister or his cousin to have some copies 
typed for his friends (pp. 204, 238, 266, 286). After a first draft, 
in which there were a considerable number of alterations and 
deletions, he would generally make a fair copy (pp. 238, 267). 
This explains how it is that we have two copies of some of the 
papers, with, of course, a number of variations. This is the case 
with Mon Univers 1918). 

Shortly before her death Marguerite Teillard-Chambon be- 
queathed these manuscripts to her sister Alice, who agreed to 
their publication. 

1 The Making of a Mind, Collins, London, and Harper and Row, New York, 


a On the title-page of some of these essays we find a note: 

Pierre Teilhard 

caporal brancardier 

4 e Mixte T.Z. 

i ere compagnie (puis Compagnie H.R.) [i.e. H.Q. Coy.] 

io Writings in Time of War 

In The Making of a Mind (pp. 37-9) Marguerite wrote as 

'In the first essay, Cosmic Life, we find his initial awakening to 
an astonished awareness of the world, a pantheistic vision and its 
urgent temptation, already overcome by his demand for unity in 
a transcendence. In The Struggle against the Multitude he goes deep 
into the problem of the one and the many, a theme to which he 
returns in Creative Union. In Mon Univers he outlines a synthesis 
of the relations between God and the world, and a similar search 
for some "centration" of the universe is to be found in The Soul 
of the World and La Grande Monade? The Christie theme had 
appeared as early as 1916, in Christ in the World of Matter.* It is 
rounded off and completed in The Mystical Milieu and The 
Priest, which herald The Mass on the World (1923), just as The 
Mystical Milieu does Le Milieu Divin of 1927. 5 In Mastery of the 
World and the Kingdom of God, Pere Teilhard examines the mean- 
ing and conditions of the apostolate that the Church will have to 
adapt to the needs of the modern world. 

'There is no need to add that there is no sign of haste in either 
the form or the substance of these first writings. The progress of 
the thought, like that of the writing, is deliberate and controlled. 
There is nothing of the dilettante in his work, for he had too much 
respect for the subjects he treated. Everything he wrote is really 
written. The very appearance of his manuscripts shows such a 
neatness of writing and arrangement that they might have been 
produced in a quiet study, even though his hand still shook from 
tiredness and nervous strain after a spell in the trenches. 

'If the assured tone he writes in seems bold, tense with "pro- 
phetic impatience", with an undercurrent of youthful vivacity 
when he attacks various ways of thinking opposed to his own, it 
should be attributed to his anxiety to bring out some importa 
aspects of Christianity that were obscured for his contemporar s 
by other writers at that time. His "lucid and intrepid mind'* 

3 Cahiers 2, Editions du Seuil, Paris. 

4 Hymn of the Universe, Collins, London, and Harper and Row, New York, 

5 Collins, London and Harper and Row, New York (entitled The Divine 
Milieu in U.S.A.), i960, Fontana (revised) edition 1964. 

Preface n 

never shrank from the startling. It must be remembered, too, 
that he was writing primarily for himself. He was drawing up a 
testimony, almost, as we have seen, a te tament. He communi- 
cated his work to a restricted circle, with no hope of having it 
published. He had tried to do so with two articles on current 
problems; one was rejected, and the other was accepted after 

'He asked himself whether he would ever be able to disclose all 
that he had seen and felt and thought during this amazing period 
of transformation. Just before his demobilization, he wondered 
anxiously, " Will they ever listen to me?" ' 

Later 6 P&re Teilhard said of these 'war-papers' that 'they 
contain nothing that I have not said more clearly at a later date'. 
If, then, they are to be properly understood, it is important to 
relate them to later writings. It is to assist in this that two theo- 
logians, both friends of Pere Teilhard, Mgr Bruno de Solages and 
Pere Henri de Lubac, have together added introductory and 
other explanatory notes to this edition. 7 They will help to dis- 
close in these essays an exactness of thought that a superficial 
reading might fail to appreciate beneath the flowing poetical 
style. 8 

A number of passages from some of these essays have already 
appeared among the Pensies in Hymn of the Universe, translated by 
Gerald Vann. Those versions (with some slight alteration at 
times) have been included in the present translation. 

The following essays, which were included in Merits du temps 
de la Guerre, have been omitted in this translation as having 
already been published or about to be published: 'Christ in the 
World of Matter' [Hymn of the Universe); La Nostalgie du Front'; 
'La Grande Monade'; 'Mon Univers' (191 8); 'Note pour servir 
a I' evangelisation des temps nouveaux 'Les Noms de la Mattere* 
and 'The Spiritual Power of matter' (Hymn of the Universe). 

• Making of a Mind, p. 37. 

7 Pere TeiUiarcTs own notes are indicated as such. 

8 Words or phrases enclosed in square brackets are Pere Teilhard's (except in 
one or two instances when an obvious omission lias been made good). He 
had a habit, when he re-read what he had written, of reinforcing a particular 
word or part of a sentence, by an addition written above the line (without 
any deletion) in order to bring out some exact shade of thought. 

Cosmic Life 

To Terra Mater, and through her to Christ Jesus, above all things. 

1 Cosmic Life 9 was finished on 24 April 1916, at Nieuport. It is the 
first of Teilhard's extant writings to be fully characteristic of its author. 
Knowing what risks he was exposed to at the front , Pere Teilhard de 
Chardin wrote it as his 'intellectual testament 9 , and it contains in embryo 
all that was later to be developed in his thought: in embryo, because 
what he has to say is less clearly focused, less accurately expressed and 
less completely proved than in later writings. (Some points, indeed, that 
he was later at pains to clarify, are presented in this essay simply as the 
evidence of Revelation.) 

As in a number of other essays in this volume, the style in which the 
ideas are expressed is lyrical and elevated. In Pere Teilhard's own 
words, it is the fire in his vision that he is trying to communicate. 

For a definitive presentation of his thought we must, accordingly, 
look to his later writings. 


There is a communion with God, and a communion with 

earth, and a communion with God through earth. 

. . . And Jacob fought with the angel until day was come. 


What follows springs from an exuberance of life and a yearning 
to live: it is written to express an impassioned vision of the earth, 
and in an attempt to find a solution for the doubts that beset my 
action — because I love the universe, its energies, its secrets, and its 
hopes, and because at the same time I am dedicated to God, the 
only Origin, the only Issue and the only Term. I want these 
pages to be instinct with my love of matter and life, and to 
reconcile it, if possible, with the unique adoration of the only 
absolute and definitive Godhead. 

My starting-point is the fundamental initial fact that each one of 
us is perforce linked by all the material, organic and psychic 
strands of his being to all that surrounds him. Not only is he 
caught up in a network, he is carried along, too, by a stream. All 
around us, in whatever direction we look, there are both links 
and currents. Countless forces of determination hold us in their 
grip, a vast heritage from the past weighs down upon our 
present, the thousand and one affinities we are influenced by pull 
us away from ourselves and drag us towards an end of which we 
have no knowledge. Surrounded by all these forces that en- 
croach on him, the individual shrinks to an imperceptible centre; 
we might say that he is no more than an observation post, a sentient 
focus-point of repulsions and attractions; he makes his choice 
from among the countless energies that radiate through him; he 
seeks, casting to and fro; he turns back upon himself and directs 
himself so that he may breathe in more or less fully according to 

Cosmic Life 15 

the direction he takes, the energizing atmosphere that surrounds 
him, in which he is one single, conscious point. This is the 
external condition imposed on us: we are, we may say, more 
outside ourselves in time and space than we are inside ourselves, 
every second of our lives. The person, the human monad, is, like 
every monad, essentially cosmic. 

Reflective thought, science, history and the social needs we 
experience, all combine to make us aware of the vast domain of 
the 'we that has no significance 9 and the 'we that is in us in spite of 
ourselves 9 ; but long before that we hear a summons, rising from 
some hidden depth within ourselves, that calls on us to broaden 
our self-regard, and realize that in virtue of our immortal souls, 
we are the countless centres of one and the same sphere, made one 
[identical] by everything in them that is not part of their in- 
communicable psychism. We are all interconnected elements of 
one and the same curve that extends ahead of and reaches back 
behind us. By reason of some obscure innate affinity, some 
immanent need to put our hands on what is stable and absolute, 
we feel germinating in us, or suddenly bursting out, a yearning 
to exchange the isolation that concentrates us on ourselves for a 
wider existence and a unity of a higher order; these, we feel, will 
allow us to share in the totality of all that draws us along and all 
that we are in contact with. It is in the pantheist aspiration for 
fusion of all in all 1 that we see the immanent side of our cosmic 
nature, each proving the other, the one imposing itself on our 
will as irresistibly as the other imposes itself on our intelligence: 
but in each case only for those who can see and feel. 

To make men see and make them feel — that is my first aim: to 
make an impassioned profession of my faith in the richness and 
value of the world and so vindicate myself against those who 
smile and shake their heads when they hear talk of an ill-defined 
nostalgia for something hidden within us which transcends and 

1 What follows (in section II) and a considerable number of later writings (in 
particular Pantbiisme et Christianisme, 1923) express this more exactly, by 
distinguishing the two meanings of the word and the aspiration it stands for: 
the pantheism Teilhard rejects is that which is normally meant by the term, 
and the pantheism he accepts is that which he describes. In The Universal 
Element (below, pp. 292-3), in Le Milieu Divin (pp. 103-4, Fontana, p. 116) 
and elsewhere it is simply 'pantheism* that he rejects. 

16 Writings in Time of War 

fulfils us — to win the day against them by showing them beyond 
all possible doubt that their self-sufficient individual personality is 
but a wisp of straw in the grip of forces they seek to shut their eyes 
to, forces that, when we speak of building up a temple to them, 
they dismiss as laughable. If man is to come up to his full 
measure, he must become conscious of his infinite capacity for carrying 
himself still further; he must realize the duties it involves, and he 
must feel its intoxicating wonder. He must abandon all the 
illusions of narrow individualism and extend himself, intellectu- 
ally and emotionally, to the dimensions of the universe: and this 
even though, his mind reeling at the prospect of his new great- 
ness, he should think that he is already in possession of the divine, 
is God himself, or is himself the artisan of Godhead. 

I am not directly concerned with science, nor philosophy, nor 
apologetics. Primarily, I am concerned to express an impassioned 
vision. I shall limelight — though I shall not go out of my way 
to condemn — the crisis (always the accompaniment of a new awaken- 
ing) that is now becoming acute in men's minds and hearts; 
simply as an observer in the first place. I shall watch the birth 
and development, in the depths of individual souls or in the 
turmoil of the masses, of the cosmic temptation; the homage paid 
to the golden calf, the incense rising up to the peak of human 
pride. Although, again, I shall offer hardly any proof, and shall 
rely simply on its coherence with and correspondence with the 
Rest, I shall allow another picture to emerge — at first in apparent 
opposition to the dreams of the Earth, but in reality to complete 
and correct them — that of the inexpressible Cosmos of matter and 
of the new life, the Body of Christ, real and mystical, unity and 
multiplicity, monad and pleiad. And, like a man who surrenders 
himself to a succession of different melodies, I shall let the song of 
my life drift now here, now there — sink down to the depths, rise 
to the heights above us, turn back to the ether from which all 
things came, reach out to the more-than-man, and culminate in 
the incarnate God-man. 

Nevertheless, a man who is enamoured of truth and reality 
cannot allow himself to drift indefinitely and confusedly with every 
breeze that fills and swells his soul. However much he might 
wish to, it would still be impossible: by a logical necessity that is 

Cosmic Life 17 

rooted in things and oui view of them, the time comes sooner or 
later when we must at last introduce unity and organization as the 
fundamental basis of our own selves — we have to test and select 
and give an order of precedence to what we love and worship — 
we have to cast down our idols and allow only one altar to stand 
in the sanctuary. A choice has to be made, and for no man is it 
so fraught with indecision and anguish as for the Christian, for the 
man, that is to say, who kneels before a cross and hears a loved 
voice call on him to abandon all in order that he may possess all. 
Does it mean, then, that to be a Christian he must renounce being 
a man, a man in the full extent and depth of the word, avidly and 
passionately a man? If we are to follow Christ and share in his 
heavenly body, must we abandon the hope that every time our 
efforts succeed in mastering a little more determinism, every time 
a little more truth is won and a little more progress achieved, we 
make contact with and begin to make available some small 
portion of the absolute? If we are to be united with Christ, must 
we dissociate ourselves from the forward drive inseparable from this 
intoxicating, pitiless cosmos that carries us along and asserts itself 
in the mind of each one of us? And is there not the danger that 
such a dissociation will in some way mutilate those who try to 
effect it in themselves, cool their ardour and rob them of their 
strength? That is the problem implicit in life: in any Christian 
heart there is an inevitable conflict between the divine faith that 
sustains his hopes as an individual and the earthly passion that is 
the driving force behind all human effort. 

Of all my convictions, none is dearer to me than the convic- 
tion that dissociation from everything that makes up the noblest 
charm and interest of our natural life cannot be the basis of our 
supernatural growth. If a Christian really understands the in- 
expressibly wonderful work that is being carried out around him, 
and by him, in the whole of nature, he cannot fail to see that the 
excitement and delight aroused in him by 'awakening to the 
cosmos' can be preserved by him not only in the form they take 
when transposed to a divine Ideal, but also in the substance of 
their most material and most earthly objects: to do so, he has only 
to learn to appreciate the value of sacred evolution as an instrument 
of beatification, and the eternal hopes it contains. 

1 8 Writings in Time of War 

That, above all, is the message I wish to communicate: the 
reconciliation of God and the world [because it reconciles God 
and the world.] In what follows I have tried to express, with as 
clear a view of things as I can achieve, the loyal solution that has 
given balance and unity to my interior life; and I offer it to those 
who are chary of accepting Christ, because they suspect him of 
wishing to besmirch the fair face of the earth to which their love 
is irrevocably pledged; and I offer it to those, too, who, in order 
to love Christ, force themselves to turn their backs on what fills 
their souls to overflowing; and to those, finally, who have been 
unable to bring together as one the God of their faith and the God 
of their most ennobling labours, and who grow weary and im- 
patient of a life that is dissipated in misdirected effort. 

24 April 1916, Nieuport 


Awakening to the Cosmos 

a: the vision 

1 . The Multitude. The fundamental vision is that of plurality and 
the multitude, the multitude that surrounds us and the multitude 
that constitutes us, that is in resdess motion around us, and that 
shelters within us. 

For many, many years, in fact since all time, men have had 
before their eyes all these dust-like agglomerations, the stars in the 
heavens, the grains of sand in the dunes, the individuals in the 
crowd: and this was in addition to the necessity the mind cannot 
escape, when it seeks to define the continuous, of breaking it 
down into points (in its own image). It was this that made men 
feel that the universe must be atomic in its constitution. But it 
was only gradually and as a result of modern science's 
continually more subtle investigations, that this intellectual 
hypothesis was transformed, in a wide section of the world, 

Cosmic Life 19 

both above and below us, into a concrete, and often direct, 
sensory intuition. 

Today, it would certainly appear that, even if our perceptions 
are still irrevocably enclosed within certain limits of greatness 
and smallness, we can at least flatter ourselves that we have 
discovered and established experimentally the law of recurrence 
that governs the structure of the cosmos. The analysis of matter is 
making us see it as a limitless aggregation of centres taking over 
and mastering one another in such a way as to build up, by their 
combinations, more and more complex centres of a higher order. 

In what we call the 'world of matter', the crystal or the 
colloidal particle can be broken down into molecules, the mole- 
cules into atoms, the atoms into electrons, and the electrons into 
some granular ether: while, advancing into a new order of 
magnitude, the planets represent the electrons of the solar system, 
which itself is an atom in some gigantic structure whose shape we 
cannot fathom. There, at each extreme, we meet Pascal's twin 

Again, in the world of life, society and the polyp break down 
into individuals, the individual into parts, the parts into cells, the 
cells into ill-defined granulations, in which the laws of atomic 
motion and symmetry are involved in and confused with organic 
differentiation and spontaneity. 

When the scientist examines the apparent continuity of material 
beings, or their disintegration into artificial and accidental 
fragments, he finds it replaced by a countless swarm of monads 
that are by nature distinct from one another. Nevertheless, these 
monads are not rents in the coat without seam which is the 
universe, since (and here we have the mystery of the cosmos and 
the secret of matter) both when at rest and when active, in their 
texture and their development, they are still one and the same 
thing: and that by reason of the forces that hold them together or 
arrange them in hierarchical order, and of the common currents 
that carry them along. 

2. Unity in the Ether. The first aspect of this profound oneness of 
all the elements of the universe is their common 'rooting' in the 

20 Writings in Time of War 

mysterious and pre-eminently cosmic entity that we call the 
ether. 2 

In spite of the strange properties that make it as physically real 
as a block of stone and at the same time as intangible as an 
abstract limit, physics is inexorably bound to accept the ether. 
It is the medium that must be posited for the transmission, or even 
perhaps the dispensing, of 'transient* energies, 8 to maintain or 
even to hold in tension the links that attract or repel the particles 
into which the world breaks down. Moreover, it is the ultimate 
term at which the cosmic particles are resolved, whether we regard 
them as eddies produced within a primitive homogeneous 
fluidity or simply as the countless centres around which one and 
the same fundamental substance radiates and folds itself. In either 
case, whether as the primordial stuff of things or as being the 
universal active medium (like hyle or energeia) it enters into our 
view of the world, by reason of being by nature the ultimate 
support of substance and activities, as a reality whose uniform 
plenitude can admit neither hiatus nor break: either of those would 
open the door to non-being. The ether is like some great reservoir 
of elastic fluid that could be twisted again and again without the 
least rift or break appearing, to isolate from the total mass the 
individual local realities produced by the twistings, however 
complex and independent of one another we may conceive them 
to be. At the same time it is a fluid whose nature is such that we 
can have no empirical knowledge of it: no natural constitutive 
part can be distinguished in it, nothing that resembles an atom 
or a molecule. Force cannot break the continuity of the ether, 
nor can it be broken down by analysis. We should think of it 
not as having the texture of a liquid into which the countless 
hordes of a thousand and one different particles are crowded 
together, but as the unimaginable state of some centre that is 

2 'Ether* is a term that belongs to a stage of scientific thought now left 
behind. It is generally realized that since the famous Michelson experiment and 
Einstein's theories, scientists have abandoned the notion of the ether, useful 
though it was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This, however, 
is of only minor importance for that part of Teilhard's views on the cosmos 
(in this instance, the unity of the cosmos) that he develops here. 

8 Cf. Creative Union, E. 'Transience. True Matter', where Teilhard goes 
back on this view (p. 166). 

Cosmic Life 21 

indefinitely extended in space, everywhere the same and yet everywhere 
different from itself. 

Everything in the universe, we must realize, proceeds from the 
ether, or in the ether. 

I can put my hand at random on any element in the teeming 
multitude and if I confront it with another one, also chosen at 
random, I am obliged to admit that in both a real inner identity 
lies hidden — that identity may, no doubt, be completed by an 
individual and incommunicable immanence, but it is not 
destroyed by it. It is identity in the ether, whose unique centre, 
dispersed through all things, is the prime matter — indivisible in 
spite of its immensity — of all that springs up within the vast 
cosmos. Like knots spaced out along a cord, or like the folds into 
which a single curtain falls, or the eddies forming on one and the 
same surface, everything that moves and lives in the universe 
represents, in one particular aspect, the modifications of one and 
the same thing; and every monad, if it looks into itself, can find 
that thing as the initial point at which all things make contact in 
their inmost essence. 

This consanguinity of the monads in the ether, which is their 
common stock and the sap that feeds them all, might perhaps 
serve to dispel, for philosophical thought, the disturbing illusion 
of transience: the interaction of material beings takes place by 
reason of, and at the level of, an identity. It is in any case the 
physical reason why material beings, to whatever degree of 
complexity they have risen, still exercise a reciprocal influence on 
one another in proportion to their specific perfection. Some- 
times with a richer, sometimes a poorer organic structure, some- 
times more, sometimes less fully illuminated by consciousness or 
governed by free choice, it is always, if we look deeply enough, 
the ether that is being attracted or repelled deep within material 
beings: it is the ether that confronts itself in this thing or that 
thing, that presses on with them, we may say, towards some 
hidden end. It is the ether that maintains the uniformity and 
interaction of determinisms and that ensures the grip of one soul 
upon another. The monad's unity of origin is necessarily con- 
tinued in unity of behaviour, of affinities and growth. It becomes 
definitively part and parcel of the total development of matter. 

22 Writings in Time of War 

This is because the monads of our universe are not simply and 
solely the centres that emerged within a vast, immobile, homo- 
geneous mass. As happens with the eddies in a river, their birth 
is accompanied by a more far-reaching movement which not only 
carries them along beyond themselves but is also, in some way, the 
actual cause of their emergence. How, exactly, are we to visualize 
the over-all movement that carries the world of matter along in 
space, or transforms its interior make-up? Is matter, first and 
foremost, as the dissipation of energy and the disintegration of 
atoms would suggest, 'what breaks down and sinks back'? Are 
the displacements that shift the stellar system carried out along 
trajectories that have no common meeting point? or are they 
rather the perception, on an extremely small element, of a gigantic 
eddy that is recommencing, on an enormous scale, the ethers 
endless task of folding-in upon itself? Only one thing matters for 
us here: it is that, in addition to an original identity of the centres 
and to a network of static (or at any rate permanent) links that 
holds them together, there are without any doubt large over-all 
currents that affect the multiplicity of atoms and stars, and 
through diem the common soul of an evolution is infused into the 
common body of all that has its basis in ether. 

And this step brings us to the confines of life. 

3. Unity through Life. Nothing would appear to be more isolated, 
nothing more exclusive of all extra-individual existence, than the 
living monad. 

Souls, immaterial or spiritual, are the type of the complete, of 
the self-contained, of the autonomous; in our experience and in 
our thought they represent microcosms. And yet, because of the 
extreme sensitiveness of their reactions and the deeply penetrative 
power of their introspection, nowhere can one distinguish more 
easily than in them the influences and functions and unity of the 
cosmos, nowhere do they appear more impressive and also more 

At the origin of the compulsions that subject souls to one 
another and to things outside them, we meet the inevitable ether. 
Even though it is still impossible, at our present stage of know- 
ledge, to say exactly what are the relationships that produce the 

Cosmic Life 23 

interdependence of these two great and still (so far as we know?) 
distinct realities, we can be certain that life stems from matter 
and cannot do without it. Life appeared, and develops, as a 
function of the whole universe; and therefore, through some- 
thing in itself, it shares in the universe's original substantial unity, 
and in some hidden way is involved in the over-all movement, 
material in basis, which constitutes the total development of the 
cosmos. Moreover, in its manifestations and particularly in its 
lower forms it can hardly be distinguished from the inanimate 
structures produced by what we call physico-chemical forces. In 
its external shape, in its internal processes, in its powers of fermen- 
tation, and in its readiness to enter into aggregations of a higher 
order, the monocellular being behaves in many ways like a 
molecule. Life appears in phenomenal continuity with the net- 
work of material determinisms and constructions. When the 
individualization of organic and conscious monads produces 
folds in the basic fabric of the cosmos, it does not tear it, any 
more than does the separation of the atomic centres. Already, 
through the matter that is common to them, all living beings are but 
one being. 

And it is primarily through their all possessing life that they are 
welded into one. 

Life, we have just said, is in some way an extension of matter. 
With the elements, it retains some of the habits of matter. It can 
even, we shall see, copy it and mimic it by making itself 
mechanical. But it is even more distinct from matter in the par- 
ticular way of involution by which the monads are born under its 
influence, and also in the general orientation of the current of 
increasing perfection along which it carries them. Through this 
matter that breaks up, and by means of it, life rises, combining 
the work of external organization that it carries out through 
individuals with a special internal involution through which 
there emerges in the heart of matter an increasingly more 
conscious side. Now, nothing contributes more to the unity of 
the centres than the common genesis that associates them in their 
structure and their destiny. We should look more closely at the 
pages of stone on which is written the history of the transfor- 
mations of living organisms. 

24 Writings in Time of War 

For anyone who can turn over those pages patiently, constantly, 
and religiously, there emerges from them a vast, luminous, 
picture. Even some of the most dedicated of those who have been 
able to read them have been powerless to describe it except in 
vague, dazzling terms of rays that melt into one another, of a 
glorious dawn, of an explosive surge; but they are all agreed in 
recognizing it as a continuity. If we look at it far enough back in 
the depths of time, the disordered anthill of living beings sud- 
denly, for an informed observer, arranges itself in long files that 
make their way by various paths towards greater consciousness. 
Seen from a sufficient distance and in a particular light, indi- 
viduals (principles, in appearance, of egocentrism and per- 
manence) are recognized as no more than staging-posts in a 
movement, each individual's most essential function being to 
advance that movement a little further; and the very multiplicity 
of the attempts made to force matter to give way to spontaneity, 
and to organize it in centres that can be charged with cosmic 
energies, even that multiplicity is absorbed in the unity of one and 
the same general direction (of climbing up, we might say, one 
common gradient) — and that direction or gradient leads towards 
freedom and light. Many individual lives come to grief, or are 
trampled underfoot and sacrificed in this pell-mell rush towards 
the light of day ; many false directions lead only to organisms that 
have no future, stifled in an excess of secondary trappings or 
paralysed by the mass. In this way whole groups are eliminated 
or survive only to provide a support for efforts that run parallel 
with them. These minor checks, however, are of no importance; 
it is the whole body of work done and success achieved that is 
paramount. The effort to climb upwards is maintained through 
and beyond partial checks, and the mysterious, unique, life-sap 
penetrates and makes its way, surrounded though it is by the 
inconceivable tangle of mechanical and organic activities. In- 
fallibly, it rises up towards some more efficiently knit nervous 
system, and above all towards brain, where thought will be able 
to reflect upon itself instantly and unerringly. Bergson expressed 
this better, perhaps, than anyone; but all who are really close to 
life have felt, as he did and long before he did, their souls thrill 
to this confident belief. 

Cosmic Life 25 

First there is the revelation of the unique matter, and then, even 
more wonderful, that of the unique soul: first, what the laboratory 
shows us, and then what nature does; first the ether, and then 
life. How blind and 'unhuman', then, are those who look at the 
universe and refuse to recognize these things, or who claim to see 
them and yet remain unmoved by the impact of a vast super- 
abundance in which their whole being is swallowed up. It is not, 
you see, enough to hear what science has to tell us, and to observe 
from outside the cosmic currents taking shape, in their individual 
eddyings or their over-all drifts; it is those currents that make us 
what we are, it is through us that they run, and we must be able 
to feel them. 

b: feeling 

. . . And I allowed my consciousness to sweep back to the farthest 
limit of my body, to ascertain whether I might not extend outside 
myself. I stepped down into the most hidden depths of my 
being, lamp in hand and ears alert, to discover whether, in the 
deepest recesses of the blackness within me, I might not see the 
glint of the waters of the current that flows on, whether I might 
not hear the murmur of their mysterious waters that rise from the 
uttermost depths and will burst forth no man knows where. 
With terror and intoxicating emotion, I realized that my own 
poor trifling existence was one with the immensity of all that is 
and all that is still in process of becoming. 4 

I can feel it: matter, which I thought was most my own, 
eludes and escapes me. Countless radiations run through me in 
every direction, and I am, in some way, no more than the place 
where they meet or conflict with one another. All sorts of 
hidden influences surround me and penetrate me — emanate, too, 
from me — bringing with them the echo and repercussion of all 
that vibrates and moves in the boundless ether. Moreover, all 
these impacts, all this penetration of the rest into me, are not 
unjust intrusions which I have the right, if not the power, to repel. 

4 Cf. Le Milieu Divin, pp. 54-5, Fontana, pp. 76-7, where Teilhard returns 
to this theme. 

26 Writings in Time of War 

When they reach me, they are at home, for it is they that make 
me what I am. 

I can feel, again — and this time much more distinctly — a 
multitude of the independent and spontaneous — atoms, mole- 
cules, cells — in turmoil beneath the unity of my own organic 
structure. Generally speaking and on the whole, their hierarchic- 
ally ordered mass serves me faithfully. But each one of them 
retains its individual affinities with spheres of matter that are not 
my sphere; and, sooner or later, these sympathies are inevitably 
expressed in processes of disorganization whose end is 'the return 
to dust\ 

The result of their activities, when they have been disciplined 
and completed by my soul, is without doubt a vital force — an 
aptitude for feeling and evolving — that I can claim as specifically 
my own: and yet although this force is indeed my own in the 
sense that it is I who concentrate it and experience it, I am quite 
unable to pin it down, whether I try to decipher any part either 
of its past or of its future. Behind the unity it assumes in my 
consciousness there lies hidden the dense multitude of all the 
succession of beings whose infinitely patient and lengthy labour 
has carried to its present stage of perfection the phylum of which I 
am for a moment the extreme bud. My life is not my own: I 
know this from the inexorable determinism contained in the 
development of overpowering emotions, in pain and in death. 
And I feel this, not only in my bodily members but in the very 
core of what is most spiritual in my being. 

I am, obviously, free. But what does my freedom represent 
other than an imperceptible point buried in an indeterminate mass 
of laws and relationships that I cannot, by and large, control? All 
I can do is shrewdly to make what use I may of them, follow 
dieir slant, sail with their wind, appear to master them and bend 
them to my will — when all I am, in fact doing, is to set them off 
one against the other. Each one of us can distinguish in the depth 
of his being a whole system of deep-seated tendencies — a law of 
his own individual evolution — that nothing can suppress and that 
persists through every stage of greater perfection. This personal 
driving force is prior to and higher than free will; it is written 
into our character, into the rhythm of our thoughts, and into the 

Cosmic Life 27 

crude surge of our passions; and it is life's heritage to us, it is the 
conscious evidence in us of the vast vital current, one trickle of which 
forms us, it is our subjection to the great task of development of 
which we, for one brief hour, are no more than the artisans. 

If, as I said before, we step down into ourselves, we shall be 
horrified to find there, beneath the man of surface relationships and 
reflection, an unknown — a man as yet hardly emerged from un- 
consciousness, still, for lack of the appropriate stimulus, no more 
than half-awake: one whose features, seen in the half-shadow, 
seem to be merging into the countenance of the world. 

No brutal shock, no, nor no gentle caress can compare with the 
vehemence and possessive force of the contact between ourselves 
as individuals and the universe, when suddenly, beneath the 
ordinariness of our most familiar experiences, we realize, with 
religious horror, that what is emerging in us is the great cosmos. 


No man who has once experienced this vision can ever forget it. 
Like the seaman who has known the intoxicating blue of the 
South Seas — whatever he be whom the ray has touched upon, 
whether scientist, philosopher, or humble worker — he lives for 
ever with his nostalgia for what is greatest, most durable, for the 
Absolute whose presence and activity around him he has felt for 
one moment. The flash that opened his eyes remains as a light 
imprinted deep within them; and he never ceases to thrill to the 
awareness of contact with the universe. Others may smile at his 
vain worries and his odd concern to extend man's consciousness 
beyond the accepted limits of practical life. But the man with the 
vision will follow his own road; he knows that many will under- 
stand his language and that they are waiting to hear him speak, 
sorrowful and somehow stunted because hidden aspirations are 
clamorous within them and they are unable to express them. This, 
then, is the word that gives freedom: it is not enough for man to 
throw off his self-love and live as a social being. He needs to live 
with his whole heart, in union with the totality of the world 
that carries him along, cosmically. Deeper than the soul of 

28 Writings in Time of War 

individuals, vaster than the human group, there is a vital fluid or 
spirit of things, there is some absolute, that draws us and yet lies 
hidden. If we are to see its features, to answer its call and under- 
stand its meaning, and if we are to learn to live more, we must 
plunge boldly into the vast current of things and see whither its 
flow is carrying us. 


Communion with Earth 


When a man has emerged into consciousness of the cosmos, and 
has deliberately flung himself into it, his first impulse is to allow 
himself to be rocked like a child by the great mother in whose arms 
he has just woken. For some this attitude of surrender is a mere 
aesthetic emotion, for others it is a rule of practical life, a system 
of thought, or even a religion; but in it lies the common root of 
all non-Christian pantheisms. 

The essential revelation of paganism is that everything in the 
universe is uniformly true and valuable: so much so that the 
fusion of the individual must be effected with all, without distinction 
and without qualification. Everything that is active, that moves 
or breathes, every physical, astral, or animate energy, every frag- 
ment of force, every spark of life, is equally sacred; for, in the 
humblest atom and the most brilliant star, in the lowest insect 
and the finest intelligence, there is the radiant smile and thrill 
of the same Absolute. It is to this Absolute alone that we have to 
cling, giving ourselves to it directly and with a penetration that 
can see through even the most substantial determinations of the 
real, and rejects them as superficial appearances. It is the eastern 
vision of the blue Lotus, instinct with passion because every 
tangible beauty is divinized by it, but weighted with matter 

Cosmic Life 29 

whose hidden basis, stimulated by that same vision, strives to rise 
up, to enter into, and to absorb all spirituality. 

What in fact, characterizes pantheist and non-Christian views 
is that the fundamental equivalence they introduce between 
everything that exists is produced, at the expense of conscious and 
personal life, for the benefit of the rudimentary and diffuse modes 
of being found in the lower monads. At first it would appear that 
in the eyes of the naturalist thinker or the Hindu everything is 
animated; in reality, everything is materialized. The luminous 
destiny of things, the paradise of souls they dream of, become one 
with their dim source; they are absorbed in the fundamental 
reservoir of homogeneous ether and latent life, from which every- 
thing has emerged arid by returning to be lost in which it is 
destined to attain its beatitude. Life is understood and experienced as 
a function of matter. 

. . . One day, I was looking out over the dreary expanse of the 
desert. As far as the eye could see, the purple steps of the uplands 
rose up in series, towards horizons of exotic wildness; again, as I 
watched the empty, bottomless ocean whose waves were cease- 
lessly moving in their 'unnumbered laughter'; or, buried in a 
forest whose life-laden shadows seemed to seek to absorb me in 
their deep, warm, folds — on such occasions, maybe, 5 I have been 
possessed by a great yearning to go and find, far from men and 
far from toil the place where dwell the vast forces that cradle us 
and possess us, where my over-tense activity might indefinitely 
become ever more relaxed . . . And then all my sensibility became 
salert, as though at the approach of a god of easy-won happiness 
Ipd intoxication; for there lay matter, and matter was calling me. 
To me in my turn, as to all the sons of man, it was speaking as 
every generation hears it speak; it was begging me to surrender 
myself unreservedly to it, and to worship it. 

And why, indeed, should I not worship it, the stable, the great, 
the rich, the mother, the divine? Is not matter, in its own way, 
eternal and immense? Is it not matter whose absence our imagina- 

6 The qualification of 'maybe', and later of 'I may have believed', should 
be noted. Pere Teilhard is indicating that the personal tone of this analysis 
should! not be taken literally, but is partly a literary device. Other instances of 
this will be found later. 

30 Writings in Time of War 

tion refuses to conceive, whether in the furthest limit of space or 
in the endless recesses of time? Is it not the one and only universal 
substance, the ethereal fluidity that all things share without either 
diminishing or fragmenting it? Is it not the absolutely fertile 
generatrix, the Terra Mater, that carries within her the seeds of all 
life and the sustenance of all joy? Is it not at once the common 
origin of beings and the only end we could dream of, the pri- 
mordial and indestructible essence from which all emerges and 
into which all returns, the starting point of all growth and the 
limit of all disintegration? All the attributes that a philosophy of 
the spirit posits as lying outside the universe, do they not in fact 
lie at the opposite pole? Are they not realized and are they not to 
be attained in the depths of the world, in divine matter? 

Lulled by the voice that charmed more than one wise man, it 
was thus that my spell-bound heart and my reason, its willing 
fellow-victim, would speak. It was heathendom's hour, the time 
when the song of the Sirens rises up from the nether regions of 
the universe. . . . 

In the exhilaration, then, of these first delights and this first 
encounter, I may well have believed in the glitter, the sweet 
scents, the boundless expanses, the bottomless depths, and sur- 
rendered myself to matter. I wished to see whether, as the vast 
hopes aroused in me by 'awakening to the cosmos' suggested, I 
could arrive at the very heart of things; whether, by losing myself 
in the world's embrace, I could find its soul. Ardently and with 
no holding back, I made the experiment, unable to imagine that 
the true could fail to coincide with the enchantment of the senses 
and the alleviation of suffering. But I found that the more I 
allowed myself to drift closer to the centre, ever more diffuse and 
dilated, of primordial consciousness, the more the light of life was 
dimmed in me. 

In the first place, I felt that I was less a part of society ; for matter 
is jealous and will allow the initiate of its mysteries no witness. 
Contact with other men is painful to the pantheist, or he tries to 
see only their collective activities, like the inconsequent move- 
ments of a system deprived of freedom. Persons (except when love 
intervenes) are mutually exclusive through their centres, and the 
pantheist dreams of forming but one, of being synonymous, with 

Cosmic Life 31 

all around him. Thus he isolates himself, and he becomes in- 
toxicated with his isolation. When I recognized that symptom I 
already suspected that I was becoming less of a person. And yet 
solitude has its own life-giving virtues. I was not, perhaps, in 
spite of the lesson of the centuries, taking the wrong road when I 
allowed myself to stray so far from mankind, depressing, be- 
fogging and uninteresting as it is. And so I obediently yielded to 
the thirst for being alone, and, to find a less irksome life, I made 
my way into the desert. 

What happened, however, was this: by the inexorable logic 
that links the stages of our activity, a diminution of social contact 
led, in me, to a diminution of personality. The man who finds his 
neighbour too heavy a burden must inevitably be weary already 
of bearing the burden of his own self. Thus I found myself seek- 
ing to cut down the work that every living being must produce 
if he is to remain himself. I was glad to see my responsibilities 
reduced; I could feel my cult of passivity being extended to 
the very limit. Mighty nature is at work for us; she has made it 
her business to look to the future, to be the guide, to make the 
decisions, and all we have to do is to surrender ourselves to her 
guidance: any interference on our part would be wasted labour 
both for us and for nature. And thus it was that in one flash the 
bewitching voice that was drawing me far from the cities into the 
untrodden, silent spaces, came through to me. One day I 
understood the meaning of the words it spoke to me; they 
stirred the little-known depths of my being, holding out the 
promise of some great bliss-giving repose; and I knew what it 
meant when it whispered 'Take the easier road'. 

Already, at the foot of the slope down which the sweet load 
of matter was drawing me, I could see the swine of Epicurus 

It was then that faith in life saved me. 

Life! When trouble lies heaviest upon us, whither shall we 
turn, if not to the ultimate criterion, the supreme verdict, of life's 
success and the roads that lead to it? When every certainty is 
shaken and every utterance falters, when every principle appears 
doubtful, then there is only one ultimate belief on which we can 
base our rudderless interior life: the belief that there is an absolute 

32 Writings in Time of War 

direction of growth, to which both our duty and our happiness 
demand that we should conform; and that life advances in that 
direction, taking the most direct road. I have contemplated nature 
for so long and have so loved her countenance, recognized un- 
mistakably as hers, that I now have a deep conviction, dear to 
me, infinitely precious and unshakable, the humblest and yet the 
most fundamental in the whole structure of my convictions, that 
life is never mistaken, either about its road or its destination. No 
doubt, it does not define intellectually for us any God or any 
dogma; but it shows us by what road we may expect all that are 
neither delusions nor idols; it tells us towards what part of the 
horizon we must steer if we are to see the light dawn and grow 
more intense. I believe this in virtue of all my experience and of 
all my thirst for greater happiness: there is indeed an absolute 
fuller-being and an absolute better-being, and they are rightly to 
be described as a progress in consciousness, in freedom and in 
moral sense. Moreover, these higher degrees of being are to be 
attained by concentration, purification and maximum effort. ] 
was, then, hopelessly mistaken in what I was just saying; I went 
completely astray when I yielded to the temptation of matter and 
relaxed the inner tension of my being in an attempt to enter 
limitlessly and unquestioningly into the universe. To grow 
greater in the truth, we must travel with our backs turned to 
matter and not try to return to it and be absorbed into it. 

In the first exhilaration of my immersion in the universe I 
allowed myself to drift unresistingly towards effortless enjoyment 
and Nirvana . . . Now, like the diver who regains control and 
masters his inertia, I must make a vigorous effort, reverse my 
course and ascend again to the higher levels. The true summons 
of the cosmos is a call consciously to share in the great work 
that goes on within it; it is not by drifting down the current 
of things that we shall be united with their one, single, soul, but 
by fighting our way, with them, towards some term still to 

Cosmic Life 33 

b: towards superman 

1. First stage: Mastery of the Universe. If we refuse to allow our- 
selves to be the plaything of the universe's determinisms and 
blissfully to sink into the isolation they offer, it does not mean 
that we cease, in all circumstances, to put our faith in matter, or 
to believe that when we grasp it we hold the basic cosmic entity. 
If a man makes up his mind to place the happiness and value 
of his life in co-operating with the universe's essential task 
of producing some absolute, matter can still stand, and so 
remain until the end, in the foreground of his aspirations and 

In this case, however, matter assumes a very different appear- 
ance from that ascribed to it by the philosophy of the lowest 
degree of consciousness and the least effort. It is no longer seen 
as the bewitching and voluptuous divinity in whose arms human 
activity is absorbed simply by a dream — to close one's eyes and 
surrender oneself. Now, it takes on a virile aspect, it toughens, 
and on its forehead there appears the mark of the Sphinx. Its 
beauty is still captivating, its breast fruitful; but the Mistress, 
ingratiating and yet dominating, has now been replaced by the 
disquieting Enigma, by the exciting Force. Matter is now the 
mysterious betrothed who is won, like the hunter's prey, in high 
combat . . . And to win her, it is not to the silence of sleep that 
we must turn, or to the wild empty spaces, but to the busy 
laboratories of nature or human skill. 

As a man who has become alive to the primacy of work leans 
over his retorts or microscope, he sees, intensely illuminated, the 
potential significance and value of the particle of intelligence and 
activity he has at his disposal. It is his function to complete cosmic 
evolution by making the inexhaustible energies at the heart of 
which he is born 'work' as though with a leaven, until all the 
promise they hold is realized. Who could number the still 
dormant seeds, the rich potentialities, hidden in matter? The 
dullest, most inert object, once the appropriate stimulant has been 
applied to it, and it has been given the sort of complement or 

34 Writings in Time of War 

contact it needs and awaits, is capable of exploding into irresistible 
effects or of transforming itself into a nature that is prodigiously 

As a result of natural contacts or of an instinctive, hidden, work, 
the Cosmos has already realized one part of its capabilities, giving 
us the world we know, with its individual substances and shades 
of life. But how many valuable properties are still to be dis- 
covered, that will perfect and transform the present picture of 
things? For too long, in seeking for health and growth, mankind 
has confined itself to docile empiricism and patient resignation. . . . 
The time has now come to master nature, to make it unlock its 
secrets, to dominate it, to inaugurate a new phase; in that phase 
intelligence, which emerged from the universe, will turn back to 
it, to readjust and rejuvenate it, and make it provide its conscious 
portion with the full contribution it can make of growth in joy 
and activity. 

We may ask what term is held out as the fruit of such efforts. 
The scientist's answer may still be vague, but he has behind him 
discoveries that have enabled him enormously to increase his 
power, to transform bodies and methodically to overcome disease. 
He can envisage a new era in which suffering is effectively alle- 
viated, well-being is assured, and — who knows? — our organs are 
perhaps rejuvenated and even artificially developed. It is danger- 
ous to challenge science and set a limit to its victories, for the 
hidden energies it summons from the depths are unfathomable. 
May it not even become possible to cultivate the brain itself, and 
intensify at will the power and keenness of thought? 6 

Borne up by this vast hope of indefinitely increasing his stature 
and of achieving his own beatification by using matter as a firm 
purchase-point, man devotes himself with new fervour to an 
impassioned study of the powers of the universe and becomes 
absorbed in the quest for the Great Secret. His austere task is 
enveloped in the mystical glow that lit up the anxious faces of the 

8 Although Pere Teilhard had at this time already developed the idea that 
man has the duty of consciously and deliberately forwarding the progress of 
evolution, he had not yet, in considering that co-operation, arrived at his final 
concept of the centration of the noosphere. Cf? The Phenomenon of Man, 
Book Four, Collins, London, and Harper and Row, New York, 1959, Revised 
Edition, 1965. 

Cosmic Life 35 

alchemists, haloed the brow of the Magi, and divinized the bold 
theft of Prometheus; and, before each new property that is 
revealed to him, each a new window on the Promised Land, the 
scientist falls on his knees, almost as though to the revelation of 
an attribute of God. 

2. Second Stage: The Segregation of Mankind. In and through the 
very effort man puts forth to master and exploit the world, he 
asserts his relative transcendence, his superiority to the rest of 
things. He stands out from the confused welter of monads. He 
learns to turn his attention more closely upon himself, to examine 
himself more carefully, to concentrate upon his own being and 
progress the love and concern he had allowed to extend too 
uniformly over the totality of the universe. First then, he recog- 
nizes in his attempts to live cosmically an initial error — an ex- 
aggerated cult of passivity amounting to an acceptance of the 
line of least resistance. He then suspects that his original pan- 
theist attitude must undergo a further correction. The true way 
to be united with totality is not to squander oneself and spend 
oneself equally on all beings, but to make one's impact with all 
one's weight and all one's strength on that specially favoured 
point on which the universal effort converges and applies its 
mass. The essential law of cosmic development is not the 
egalitarian fusion of all beings, but the segregation that allows 
a chosen elite to emerge, to mature and to stand out alone. And, 
in this case, the coveted fruit that all things work to produce, 
in which all is summed up and fulfilled, in which all finds joy 
and pride, is mankind. 

It matters little that, for the historian of human origins, man, 
when he first appears, does not seem worthy of so high a destiny. 
What though the roads by which he appeared and along which he 
advanced organically be humble and obscure — so humble and 
obscure, indeed, that he has much more the air of a common 
upstart than a predestined leader? What though he seem to have 
been carried by chance to the biological threshold at which many 
other phyla, more important than his, faded away or from which 
they fell back before crossing it? The cosmic importance of a 
being does not necessarily depend upon whether it is more close 

36 Writings in Time of War 

or less close to the axis of the fascicle of natural growths. 7 
Scientists can, indeed, show us how large a part accident has 
played in our destiny and how we occupy but a marginal position 
within the group of living beings; but even so we men represent 
that part of the world that has won through, that in which all the 
life-sap of a recognizable evolution flows, in which all its efforts 
are concentrated, towards the break-through that has finally been 
effected. It is we, without any doubt, that constitute the active 
part of the universe; we are the bud in which life is concentrated 
and is at work, and in which the flower of every hope is enclosed. 
If, then, a man who has heard the summons of the cosmos is to 
remain faithful to it, he must overcome his repugnance for 
contact with the mob, for the promiscuity and constraints of 
cities and the smoke of factories, and, with all his soul, turn back 
to mankind ; for mankind is the object in which, rather than in his 
own being, he must re-discover himself and to which his love 
for his own self must be given. 

Thanks to the mastery of matter that he has been working to 
achieve, man of the laboratory and the factory has already, as we 
have seen, been assisting most effectively the continued progress 
and success of the development of the cosmos, as canalized by the 
human stock. Other completely different factors, much more 
directly appropriate to the special needs of new developments, 
must also be distinguished and made use of: the factors that belong 
to the social and moral order. 

From the social point of view, the human monad presents 
itself to an observer, whether he examines it from the outside or 
from within, as a sort of molecule or cell essentially destined to be 
integrated in a higher structure or organism. Not only is the 
nourishment of numerous material perceptions and assimilations 
indispensable to its make-up; if it is to attain its full development 
it must also be complemented by other monads similar to itself. 
It can be completely itself only by ceasing to be isolated. Like mole- 
cules whose coming together stimulates dormant properties, so 

7 Pere Teilhard's later palaeontological studies brought him to a contrary 
view: he believed in the axial position of man in the tree of life. See, for 
example, The Phenomenon of Man (1930), Chapter XI of The Vision of the Past, 
Collins, London, and Harper and Row, New York, 1966, pp. 165-6. 

Cosmic Life 37 

human beings fertilize and complete one another by making 
contact; and the association necessary to the multiplication of the 
human race is no more than a lower and extremely feeble proto- 
type of the rich developments produced by the intercourse of the 
souls. As particular positions and functions are assigned in the 
body to the cells, so, in society, the skills of individuals are defined 
and distributed, and provide one another with mutual support. 
Childish though it is to exaggerate the analogies with the organic 
presented by social groups, it is equally superficial to see in them 
only the arbitrary and contingent. Although they never produce a 
network sufficiently close-knit and unified for us to be able to speak of 
a true collective soul, yet the interrelations of men represent an 
essential, cosmic, work 'of nature'; they are an indispensable link 
in the series by which the universe moves towards its perfection. 
To co-operate in their establishment is much more than a super- 
ficial occupation, a pleasant or supererogatory pastime: it is truly 
to contribute one's effort to the fundamental work that has 
determined the movement of the universe ever since the be- 
ginning; it is to forward life's further developments. 

So far as one can guess, the developments to be expected are 
primarily of the intellectual and moral order. The impression one 
gets is that after having been completely occupied for a long time in the 
work of constructing organisms, life is only now beginning to see to its 
internal dispositions; it is concentrating its attention and care on 
advances and refinements of a finally perfected consciousness. At 
present, evolution is continuing much more through improvements of 
the psychological order than through organic transformations. It is 
the same ontological effort still being pursued, but in a new phase 
and at a new level. What direct physical links exist in depth 
between souls, making them all share fully in the ontological 
advances realized by any one of them? By virtue of what reactions 
of spirit on matter does any progress in interior illumination and 
rightly ordered will make itself felt in all being and in the whole 
species, and so complete and perfect them organically? What new 
state of existence will eventually be produced by cultivation of the 
soul and harmonizing of social energies? It seems almost non- 
sensical to formulate these questions and the hypotheses they 
imply. As happens when we try to form some sort of picture of 

3 8 Writings in Time of War 

the very first origins of life or of mankind, so the mere attempt to 
give exact form to the aspirations that centre on the ultimate 
flowering of our race is sufficient to make them appear ridiculous. 
This, however, is very far from proving that the presentiments 
behind our aspirations are mistaken. 

Those who hold firmly to their belief in human progress are, in 
fact, a numerous body. We may smile at their naivete, and 
quote against them the disquieting evidence of men's conflicts and 
maliciousness, but they persist in their hope. They believe that to 
accept that mankind is simply drifting and coming to nothing, to 
deny that any promise is alive in it, is to despair of grasping any 
absolute in the universe, is to recognize that the cosmos is empty, 
its summons a falsehood, and life impotent and deceptive. Such 
a fraud, they say, cannot be reconciled with the most profound 
assurances life offers us. Under the combined efforts of science, 
morality and association in society, some super-mankind is 
emerging; and it is very probably in the direction of Spirit that 
we should look, if we wish to know what form it will take. 

3. Third Stage: The Liberation of Spirit. As man advances in con- 
sciousness of his value as a person and of the real worth of the 
social groups in which he is integrated, so he ceases to find satis- 
faction in matter. When he first awoke to the cosmos, he had 
eyes and hands only for the immediate, solid, treasures that come 
to us, tangibly apprehended, with the earth. Now his attention is 
being drawn to, and his ambitions are concentrated upon, that 
specially favoured position to which he is introduced by a 
mysterious, laborious process of segregation (the combined work 
of nature and his own industry) ; he is beginning, therefore, to 
look down on the first object of his cosmic passion. Intellectually 
and emotionally the promises offered by matter have ceased to be 
paramount. He is tending to see in matter only an obstacle; it is 
becoming a dead-weight, a husk to be discarded as he journeys on. 
And the reason for this is that it is dim, heavy, passive, loaded with 
suffering, evil — while progress moves towards the light, to ease, 
and freedom, and blessedness, and purification of being . . . The 
significance and value of the world's work may well He in 
spiritualizing matter, or, if matter is found to be impatient of 

Cosmic Life 39 

such transformation, in eliminating it. This is the new idea that is 
gradually warming to life in every high-minded, loyal, soul; it 
first attracts it, and finally wins it over. 

A number of considerations, drawn from the order of ex- 
perience, are at first introduced to support this brilliant hope. 
They allow one to believe that the reduction of Spirit to matter is 
not impossible, and is, indeed continually taking place; in con- 
sequence, transition from one to die other in the reverse direction 
is equally possible. Every activity, by reason of its very function- 
ing, is encumbered with mechanisms which facilitate the 
execution of further acts but at die same time reduce and act as a 
brake on spontaneity. Even the most conscious act soon succumbs 
to the burden of habit; the habit passes from the psychic make-up 
into 'acquired' reflexes; and some acquired reflexes may well, 
perhaps, pass in turn into the general stock of hereditary charac- 
teristics transmitted from one generation to another. For ex- 
ample, the automatic instinct of insects, so astonishingly blind 
and exact, would seem to be simply the survival of former 
spontaneous processes; of old, these had been both exuberant and 
varied but for centuries now they have been channelled into the 
easiest and most satisfying directions. In this group of living 
creatures, their original 'freedom* has become so loaded with 
organic reflexes that it has almost disappeared and has been 
replaced by a group of 'tropisms'. Everything in matter that is 
passive and 'material' — its linkages, its determinisms, its inertia, 
its unconsciousness — may possibly be the result of a similar 
secondary transformation, a pseudomorphosis, by which pri- 
mordial 'omni-spontaneity' was converted into mechanical 
obedience and routine. One is tempted to believe that this is so, 
if one notes that besides materialization by habit there can also 
be, exaggerating it, materialization by sheer numbers. 

This also is a fact known by our daily intimate experience. 
Simply as a result of numerical magnitude, a particular inertia is 
developed in collective groups: certain constants and certain laws 
are produced in them, that can give a total sum of free options 
(provided it be sufficiendy large) the overall appearance of a 
system of determinisms. There is nothing so difficult to trans- 
form, nothing that takes so long if you try to make it evolve, and 

40 Writings in Time of War 

nothing so troublesome to hold in check, as a multitude. 
Plurality throws a veil of lifelessness over the individuals it groups 
together. It forces the whole they form to take on the apparent 
characteristics of matter. The rigour and regularity of physical 
laws have no firmer support beneath us than the very multi- 
plicity of the elementary effects that our perceptions synthesize. 
And above us, we feel, the large communities (racial, national, 
etc.) of which we are the atoms, absorb and dominate us; they do 
this through higher streams of influence which are, no doubt, 
born from the confluence of our own tendencies and passions, 
although, since they originate from a centre much more immense 
than ourselves, we cannot master them. 

Matter, a deposit that is slowly formed in the tissues of our soul, 
or a solid block bound together by the cohesion of our individual 
personalities, constantly tends to catch up on us and to re-form 
above us. And this proves that by making an effort in the opposite 
direction we can force it to withdraw, and so win back ground 
from the unconscious and inevitable and even, maybe, re-animate 
all things. 

Idealist thinkers offer us hope that this dream may indeed be 
realized. Matter, they tell us, in which a crude philosophy would 
see the support of all that exists and the stuff of which it is made, 
cannot subsist by itself; for matter is simply transience and 
multiplicity, while being, on the other hand, is essentially im- 
manence and unity. The keystone of the universe, the centre of 
all interconnexions, without which the world collapses, dis- 
integrates and vanishes, is the intellectual monad, the only monad 
that subsists in its perfect simplicity. History, no doubt, shows us 
an advance in the opposite direction: in the phenomenal develop- 
ment of time, the less conscious preceded die appearance of the 
more conscious . . . That order, however, reflects only a subjective 
point of view; it represents an evolution, in relation to our own 
particular position, of the ontological conditions of our being. 
We reach back into the past, in phyletic series, just as in space the 
continuous disintegrates into atoms, and just as freedom is 
broken down into determinisms, or intuition into logical pro- 
cesses. We should not, however, be deceived by analytical 
illusions. The truth about the way in which things are con- 

Cosmic Life 41 

stituted is this: Everything that exists has a basis of thought, not a 
basis of ether. Necessarily, then, consciousness has everywhere the 
power to re-emerge, because everywhere it is consciousness, 
dormant or ossified, that persists. 

Thus, the verdict of philosophical thought confirms the hints 
suggested by experience, and enables us to envisage the in- 
creasing possibility of the spiritualization of the universe. Through 
a mental drive sui generis combined with a better organization of 
the forces that link monads together, the individual can co- 
operate in causing consciousness and flexibility to re-emerge in 
the multitude of atoms and the multitude of men, in both 
inorganic and living matter, and in social matter. This is his 
cosmic task: and it will lead mankind to freedom and happiness. 

When final harmony at last reigns universally, resolving 
conflicts and cleavages, correcting baneful tendencies and un- 
lawful contacts, illuminating the depths of all things, then suffering 
and mischance and gloom will no longer disfigure the regenerated 
cosmos. Everything that was simply a hard, secondary, crust, 
every false or reprehensible relationship, all physical and moral 
evil, all the evil part of the world, will have disappeared: what 
remains will have flowered again, and Spirit will have absorbed 

4. Fourth Stage: The Peace the World gives. When man has 
reached this supreme point in the purification of his views and the 
widening of his desires, he halts and turns back upon himself. 
Weary of his own instability and insignificance, he has left his 
home to hasten in search of the absolute element in the universe, 
the element that calls for his worship. Now that he has found a 
direction in life, now that he has met the Divinity that his being 
was confusedly yearning to dedicate itself to, then, enriched by 
what he has found, he returns to the hidden shelter of his own 
heart and looks around. Has his aged, weary, heart at last found 
new youth? Is the hunger of his heart at last filled and satisfied? 
Is his anxious heart now at peace? What change is there in the 
man who has allowed the cares of, and consciousness of, the 
cosmos to form part of his interior life? 
What such a man sees first of all is that his level of egoism has 

42 Writings in Time of War 

dropped. It is not that he no longer loves himself (which would 
be absurd), nor that he loves himself less (which would be 
pernicious) but that he loves himself in a different and better way. 
Ever since he saw the swarming of the multitudes and recognized 
the flow of the cosmic current, the petty well-being of his own 
person has ceased to appear to him the central concern of the 
universe, and is no longer of paramount importance to him. He 
no longer believes now that he is the only person in the world, 
there to enjoy himself and grow greater. Countless others, all 
around him, also have the right to be happy and successful. He 
sees them struggling on all sides; and he can discern, infinitely 
more important than any private undertakings, the development 
of a vast work that calls for all his good will and fills him with 
enthusiasm. He has, quite literally, shifted the axis of his life 
outside himself; he has, one might say, de-centred himself; in 
some way it is no longer himself that he cherishes in himself, but 
the great thing of which he is a constituent particle and an active 
element; it is the immanent Goddess of the World that rests her 
foot on him for a moment, to rise, with his support, a little 
higher still. 

Indolence and lack of interest, then, have given way in him to 
a burning zeal to seek for the truth and a disciplined, eager, 
concern for progress. Grandis labor instat. No time must be lost, 
and no opportunity missed. However trifling it be, part of life's 
ultimate success depends upon the diligence with which I 
examine the world and make it more perfect in my own self. 
Awareness of this task spurs me on, and at the same time consoles 
me for my insignificance and obscurity. 

Hitherto, the paltriness of my life and the contempt of my 
fellow-men used to be irksome to me. Until quite recently, not 
to be known or to be misunderstood, seemed an intolerable dis- 
appointment, and the fear of it paralysed my activity. But now 
diat the true measure of things has been made clear to my soul, I 
am free. Why, before I act, should I be concerned to know 
whether my effort will be noticed or appreciated? Why should I 
feed my appetite for action with the empty hope of prestige or 
popularity? The only reward for my labour I now covet is to be 
able to think that it is being used for the essential and lasting 

Cosmic Life 43 

progress of the universe. If I have faith in life, I believe that the 
world records everything good and useful that is done in it; it 
notes and assimilates to itself every movement and every impulse 
that is fitted to harmonize with its own becoming, of whose real 
goodness there can be no doubt. My life may be unknown, 
monotonous, commonplace, boring, hidden from all men's 
eyes . . . but I shall carry out its duties in the consciousness that I 
am effectively collaborating in the absolute evolution of Being. 
Lowly atom though I am, I shall fulfil an imperceptible function 
as such with a heart as all-embracing as the universe. 

Even when I am confronted by suffering, my vision of the 
cosmos will justify me in remaining unmoved. 

Observed in isolation, pain is inexplicable and hateful; but as 
soon as we attribute to it its proper place and role in the cosmos, 
we can read its features and distinguish its smile. It is pain that, 
by stimulating beings to react against conditions that are inimical 
to their full development, forces them to leave unprofitable 
roads; it stimulates them to undertake fruitful work and induces 
them to attain common harmony and to adapt themselves to one 
another in such a way as to avoid conflicts that injure and en- 
croachments that reduce them. It is pain again that, by detaching 
man from lower delights, forces him to seek joy in considerations 
and objects that 'worm and rust do not consume', that makes his 
soul return to the higher reaches of being, and keeps the vital 
pressure continually at work against the present limits of his 
development. It is pain, finally, that automatically punishes any 
transgressions of life's laws, and sees to it that they are expiated. 
Suffering stimulates, spiritualizes, and purifies. The converse, and 
at the same time the complement, of the appetite for happiness, 
it is the very life-blood of evolution; since, through suffering, it is 
the cosmos that wakens in us, I shall see suffering come without 
distress or fear. 

Such, then, is the peace that the world gives. The responsibility 
for, and joy in, a great tangible value to be fostered, have trans- 
figured my life. 

5. Fifth Stage: The Soul's Lament. At the very moment when I 
was flattering myself that I had at last found an unshakable 

44 Writings in Time of War 

foundation of imperturbability, and an ultimate end that would 
soothe and polarize all my anxious aspirations, at that very 
moment I heard a long lament rising up from within me, the 
lament of my sacrificed soul, mourning the hopes it had for 
itself and that are now no more. 

In the religion of divine evolution, the person counts for 
nothing. A passing eddy in the over-all current, no sooner 
formed than it vanishes, a graver first carefully sharpened and then 
thrown aside as soon as it is blunted, the individual has no im- 
portance and no future except in relation to die general progress. 
He can regard himself only as an ephemeral value; and the love 
he filches for his personal use and happiness is a sort of dissipation 
of the main energy. To find the Absolute on earth, the soul has 
had to renounce all that constituted the dignity and charm of its 
life. And this saying is so hard that, as we know, when the time 
comes for bearing the burden of a real sacrifice, no man can open 
his ears to it. 

Nothing, then, it would appear, or practically nothing, will be 
left of the precious temple I have lovingly built and embellished 
in myself throughout a whole lifetime. Of all my concern to 
perfect and refine and adorn myself, of all the exquisite purity and 
delicacy that charmed and delighted me in those I love, nothing 
would remain for me, and nothing be preserved for them. Lost 
in the confused mass of our generation, one wave in a long 
series of waves thrown into the attack upon super-humanity, it 
would be our fate to succumb; we would have no consolation 
except that we had fallen that others might be more fortunate; 
we would see nothing of the victory, nor could we even be 
certain that a victory was infallibly being prepared. Could there, 
indeed, possibly be such an obliteration of what is supremely 
vibrant and moving in the human heart? 

If, again, the whole of my labour were harvested, if the whole 
of my suffering were meaningful and fruitful, if all the betterment 
achieved by my work were made permanent and handed on, 
then I might perhaps be able to take comfort. All that was best 
of me would survive in the lasting evidence of my passage, for in 
it would be preserved and made eternal all the effective value of 
my life . . . Unhappily, whatever may be said, very little of what 

Cosmic Life 45 

a man thinks and knows and wills, very little of his own personal 
value, succeeds in becoming exteriorized, and still less of such 
good seed as is produced falls upon fertile ground. There are 
mistakes, and waste, and breakdowns. Much effort is thrown 
away, and much suffering is completely barren. If I rely only on 
the cosmos to guard my treasure, I shall be profoundly dis- 
illusioned; for its wastage is colossal, and its yield minute. 

What, moreover, is that part of me that can be exteriorized? 
Neither the scent nor the colour constitutes the flower; and it is 
the flower, my feeling tells me, that is the treasure I carry within 
me. Little by little, I have seen unfold in the depths of my being 
this mysterious flower that I recognize as my own incommunic- 
able personality; I have loved it with passion, because of all the 
care I had given to protecting and embellishing it, and even more 
because of all that I could discern in it that was greater than 
myself and existed before myself. And now it is this so loved 
monad that I see doomed to disintegration; to lose those in- 
expressible enchanting characteristics that determine its indi- 
viduality; to disappear, practically without trace, sacrificed, even 
to annihilation, to some hypothetical, faceless Divinity. 

Could I but know for certain that some fragment of the 
Absolute that momentarily circulates in my being, is held there, 
is perpetuated there, and so preserves me for eternal life! . . . 
Prophets of pantheism have risen up to promise me, in the name 
of some astonishing metempsychosis, that my soul will persist 
throughout different forms of association assumed by the 
universe. But all they have offered me is the persistence and the 
survival of a monad that cannot recognize itself from one stage 
of its being to another; and it is the thread of my conscious 
person, of my enriched memory, of my enlightened thought, 
that I long to see prolonged, without break, and for ever. 

If, then, the word is not to be heard on earth, may it come 
down from heaven: the word that, integrating into one synthesis 
the yearnings of the soul and the demands of the universe, will 
reveal to us by what mysterious organic union of the extreme 
terms, individual aspirations can be fulfilled in the realization of 
the whole ! 

46 Writings in Time of War 


Communion with God 

a: the world of souls 

The sovereign charm of Christianity is that it is above all a 
religion of persons, the religion of souls. Whereas the wor- 
shippers of earth, in their search for a stable and permanent God- 
head, can look only towards a Becoming, or a collectivity, or 
some extremely simple lower term of matter, the Christian 
believes that he holds within himself an immortal substance, an 
incorruptible fruit which is the object of every process and every 
proliferation in the universe. The term he awaits for the world is 
not some distant hypothetical superhumanity: in each one of the 
souls that is born from it, and then takes flight, the cosmos is 
incessantly fulfilling its finest hopes. The cosmos is no more than 
an impermanent stem that can wither away: all that it can con- 
tain of Absolute is to be found in the souls that gather it up, give 
it stability and then, when death harvests them like ripe fruit, 
carry it with them; souls, for whom nothing in heaven or upon 
earth is too beautiful and precious; souls, the quintessence of the 
perfections developed by natural life, and the seat of the in- 
expressible amplification effected by sanctification. 

So speaks the voice of Christianity, and it would seem that to 
hear it an intensely pure joy should invade and possess my heart. 
And yet the very first thing I find is that the sense of peace that 
comes with the promise of immortality is mixed with a deep 
distrust. I have tasted too deeply the joy of expanding my being 
to the dimensions of all that lives to be able henceforth to confine 
myself to the limits of my own self; I have been too conscious of 
the thrill of universality in my soul, to accept a bliss that leaves 
me in isolation. Do not the promises of Christianity mean the 

Cosmic Life 47 

end of cosmic hopes? Does not the primacy of the monad 
tarnish and destroy the mysterious charms of the Pleiad? If we 
are to have the happiness of knowing that we are Some Thing, 
must we not give up the heady euphoria of feeling that we are 
enveloped by, traversed by, drawn along by Another Thing, 
vaster and more important than ourselves? 

We may take heart, for such fears are vain. Here as elsewhere, 
all the highest and most legitimate ambitions entertained by the 
heart of man are respected and satisfied a hundredfold by 
Revelation. For the believer whose eyes have seen the light, 
souls are not formed in the world as discontinuous and autono- 
mous centres, nor do they so leave it. Even more fully and more 
blissfully than in any human pantheist dream, sanctified monads 
are atoms immersed in, nourished by, and carried along by one 
and the same unfathomable primitive substance; they are 
elements that are combined and given a special character by a 
network of intimate interconnexions, in order so to constitute a 
higher unity. While Christianity is a supremely individualist 
religion, it is at the same time essentially a cosmic religion, since, when 
the Creation and the preaching of the Gospel have completed 
their work, Christianity discloses to us not simply a harvest of 
souls but a world of souls. 

If we look at this world, we see that the fundamental substance 
within which souls are formed, the higher environment in which 
they evolve — what one might call their own particular Ether — 
is the Godhead, at once transcendent and immanent, in qua 
vivimus et movemur et sumus — in whom we live and move and 
have our being. God cannot in any way be intermixed with or 
lost in the participated being which he sustains and animates and 
holds together, but he is at the birth, and the growth and the 
final term of all things. Everything lives, and everything is raised 
up — everything in consequence is one — in Him and through 

Worthily to describe the rapture of this union and this unifi- 
cation, the pantheists' most impassioned language is justified, 
whether unspoken in the heart or given expression by the tongue: 
and to that rapture is added the ecstatic realization that the 
universal Thing from which everything emerges and to which 

48 Writings in Time of War 

everything returns, is not the Impersonal, the Unknowable and 
the Unconscious, in which the individual disintegrates and is lost 
by being absorbed: it is a living, loving, Being, in which the 
individual consciousness, when it is lost, attains an accentuation 
and an illumination that extends to the furthest limit of what is 
contained in its own personality. God, who is as immense and 
all-embracing as matter, and at the same time as warm and 
intimate as a soul, is the Centre who spreads through all things; 
his immensity is produced by an extreme of concentration, and 
his rich simplicity synthesizes a culminating paroxysm of accumu- 
lated virtues. No words can express the bliss of feeling oneself 
possessed, absorbed, 8 without end or limit, by an Infinite that is 
not rarefied and colourless, but living and luminous, an Infinite 
that knows and attracts and loves. 

Souls are irresistibly drawn by the demands of their innate 
powers, and still more by the call of grace, towards a common 
centre of beatitude, and it is in this convergence that they find a 
first bond that combines them in a natural Whole. The paths 
they follow inevitably meet at the term of the movement that 
carries them along. Moreover, grace, which introduces them 
into the field of divine attraction, forces them all to exert an 
influence, as they proceed, upon one another; and it is in this 
relation of dependence, which is just the same kind as that which 
links together material systems, that there lies the so astonishingly 
'cosmic' mystery (we might almost say the phenomenon) of the 
Communion of Saints. 

Like particles immersed in one and the same spiritual fluid, 
souls cannot think or pray or act or move, without waves being 
produced, even by the most insignificant among them, which set 
the others in motion; inevitably, behind each soul a wake is 
formed which draws other souls either towards good or towards 

There is an even more striking similarity with the organisms 
that life on earth forms and drives, in mutual interdependence, 
along the road of consciousness, in that souls know that the 
evolution of their personal holiness reaches its full value in the 

8 The ms. reads absorber (absorb) : when altering the latter part of the sentence, 
Pere Teilhard forgot to substitute the past participle absorbi for the active verb. 

Cosmic Life 49 

success of a global task that goes beyond and is infinitely more 
important than the success of individual men. 

There is this difference, however: under the influence of 
natural evolution, community of work produces only a Whole 
whose texture is divergent, so that its parts can pull away and 
disintegrate at the whim of all sorts of accidents or impulses; 
again, the group of living beings that are the most united in their 
destiny, that is to say the human group, has not (or not yet?) 
advanced beyond the stage, in its unification, of an organized 
collectivity. On the other hand, souls that have attained holiness 
can envisage at the term of their development and confluence a 
solidarity of a very different nature. 

Grace, in fact, is more than the common environment or over- 
all current by which the multitude is bound together into the 
coherence of one solid whole or one single impulse. For the 
believer, it represents, quite literally, die common soul that 
brings them under the infinitely benign domination of a conscious 
mind. The Communion of Saints is held together in the hallowed 
unity of a physically organized Whole; and this Whole — more 
absolute than the individuals over which it has dominion, in as 
much as the elements penetrate into and subsist in God as a 
function of Him and not as isolated particles — this Whole is the 
Body of Christ. 

b: the body of Christ 

Minds that are afraid of a bold concept or are governed by 
individualistic prejudices, and always try to interpret the re- 
lationships between beings in moral or logical terms, are apt to 
conceive the Body of Christ by analogy with human assoc- 
iations; it then becomes much more akin to a social aggregation 
than to a natural organism. Such minds dangerously weaken 
the thought of Scripture and make it unintelligible or platit- 
udinous to thinking men who are eager to trace out physical 
connexions and relations that are specifically cosmic. They un- 
justifiably diminish Christ and the profoundly real mystery of his 
Flesh. The Body of Christ is not, as some unenterprising 
thinkers would have us believe, the extrinsic or juridical asso- 

5 o Writings in Time of War 

ciation of men who are embraced by one and the same bene- 
volence and are destined to the same reward. It must be under- 
stood with boldness, as St John and St Paul and the Fathers saw it 
and loved it. It constitutes a world that is natural and new, an 
organism that is animate and in motion, one in which we are all 
united, physically and biologically. 

The exclusive task of the world is the physical incorporation of 
the faithful in the Christ who is of God. This cardinal task is 
being carried out with the rigour and harmony of a natural evolu- 

At the source of its developments an operation was called for, 
transcendent in order, to graft the Person of a God onto the 
human cosmos, under conditions that are mysterious but physic- 
ally governed. This would give immanence to, or 'immanentize', 
in our universe the principle around which a predestined body of 
the chosen is to achieve its segregation. Et Verbum caro factum est. 
This was the Incarnation. From this first and fundamental contact 
between God and the human race — which means in virtue of the 
penetration of the Divine into our nature — a new life was born: 
an unlooked for magnification and 'obediential' extension of our 
natural capabilities — grace. Grace is not simply the analogous 
form found in a number of different immanencies, the life, 
uniform and at the same time multiple, shared by living creatures. 
It is the unique sap that starts from the same trunk and rises up 
into the branches, it is the blood that courses through the veins 
under the impulse of one and the same Heart, the nervous current 
that is transmitted through the limbs at the dictate of one and the 
same Head: and that radiant Head, that mighty Heart, that 
fruitful Stock, must inevitably be Christ. Through grace, 
through that single and identical life, we become much more than 
kinsmen, much more, even, than brothers: we become identified 
with one and the same higher Reality, which is Jesus Christ. 

Christ could, no doubt, be content, exercising no more than a 
collective spiritual influence, thus to give life to the human cells 
that prolong him, mystically, through the universe: but he does 
more. By means of sacramental communion he consummates the 
union of the faithful in Himself through an individual and 
integral contact of soul with soul, flesh with flesh; he instils even 

Cosmic Life 51 

into the matter of their being, side by side with the imperative 
need to adhere to the mystical Body, a seed of resurrection. 
Christ, as does all life, anticipates our desires and efforts: in the 
first place through the Incarnation, and then through the 
Eucharist, he organizes us for himself and implants himself in us. 
But, again as all life does, he demands the co-operation of our 
good will and our actions. 

We give him this essential collaboration by exerting an effort 
actively to become assimilated, by lovingly submitting our own 
autonomy to His: this assimilation lies in loving-kindness and 
humility, in community of suffering, by which the Passion of 
Calvary is continued and completed, but above all in charity, that 
wonderful virtue which makes us see and cherish Christ in every 
man and so enables us to forward, in the 'immediacy' of a single 
act, the unification of all in One. 

We may be tempted to believe, and may perhaps be told, that 
in the course of this painfully acquired communion, all we are 
doing is simply to bring about moral beauties in our souls and a 
superficial resemblance to God, similar to those improvements 
through which, in social life, men who attach importance to their 
personal cultural development, are accustomed to better their 
natural personality. Nothing could be more mistaken. Our 
efforts have an impact that is far more permanent and profound. 
When our activity is animated by grace it is as effective and 
'creative' as life, die Mother of Organisms, and it builds up a 
Body in the true sense of the word. This is the Body of Christ, 
which seeks to be realized in each one of us. 

The mystical Body of Christ should, in fact, be conceived as a 
physical Reality, in the strongest sense the words can bear. Only so 
can the great mysteries and the great virtues of religion, only so 
can Christ's role as mediator, die importance of Communion, and 
the immense value of charity, assume their full significance; only so 
can the Person of the Saviour retain its full hold on our minds and 
continue to provide the driving force our destinies demand. 

To this faith, Jesus, I hold, and this I would proclaim from the 
house-tops and in all places where men meet together: that You 
do more than simply stand apart from things as their Master, you 
are more than the incommunicable splendour of the universe; 

52 Writings in Time of War 

you are, too, the dominating influence that penetrates us, holds 
us, and draws us, through the inmost core of our most imperative 
and most deep-rooted desires; you are the cosmic Being who 
envelops us and fulfils us in the perfection of his Unity. It is, 
in all truth, in this way, and for this that I love you above all 

Caught in the flames of a seemingly self-contradictory desire, 
I thirsted, Lord, to become more my own self by emerging 
from myself; and it is you who, faithful to your promise, quench 
my thirst with the living Water of your precious Essence, in which 
he who loses himself finds his soul and the soul of all other men 
made one with his own. 

Already, when I contemplated your Godhead, I had the rapture 
of finding a personal and loving Infinite; and the association of 
those words held such sweetness for me that to repeat them 
seemed a bliss to which there would be no end; it was like the 
single note produced by the Angel's viol, of which St Francis 
never wearied. And now I know more: the very multitude of 
my race comes to life in your humanity; the breath that gives 
solidity and harmony to its scattered elements is not a Spirit 
whose higher nature is disconcerting to us, it is a human soul that 
feels and vibrates as I do; it is your very soul, Jesus. I know, too, 
that, in a supreme condescension to my yearning for activity and 
change, you offer me this higher, definitive, world which you 
concentrate and shelter in Yourself, but you offer it unfinished, so 
that my life may draw sustenance from die intense satisfaction of, 
in some small way, giving You to Yourself. Here, then, is the 
one thing that matters, absolute and tangible, that I dreamed of 
assigning as an objective and ideal to all my human efforts: it is 
the Kingdom of God, whose realization we have to work for, 
and which we have to win. Your Body, Jesus, is not only the 
Centre of all final repose; it is also the bond that holds together 
all fruitful effort. In you, side by side with Him who is, I can 
passionately love Him who is becoming. What more do I need for 
final peace to spread through my soul, in a way for which I 
could never have hoped, satisfying even its most apparently 
impossible aspirations for cosmic life? 

There is one thing more, Lord: just one tiling, but it is the most 

Cosmic Life 53 

difficult of all, and, what is worse, it is a thing that you, perhaps, 
have condemned. It is this: if I am to have a share in your 
kingdom, I must on no account reject this radiant world in the 
ecstatic delight of which I opened my eyes. 


Like snowy peaks floating, almost unreal, over the mist, their 
bases gradually disclosed by a gentle breeze, so the heavenly 
Jerusalem was first seen in the clouds of heaven and then estab- 
lished its foundations on earth. Through the mediation of Christ, 
the supernatural cosmos exposed its roots, closely woven into our 
universe. It was in our world that die Saviour germinated : and he 
grows again and reaches his full stature through the continuation 
of our humble labours and our patience. That providence should 
so often condescend to our immanent concern for perfection and 
happiness should, one would imagine, satisfy to the full and 
disarm all our demands. Unhappily, that is far from being so; 
for, however terrestrial and human the Body of Christ may be, 
however deeply it may have been implanted in our cosmos and 
our life, it still appears at first alien to the world : it develops in 
the world but as though, one might say, it were not there. 

If we are to prepare for ourselves the joy of breaking its treacher- 
ous spell, we must not be afraid of testing, in all sincerity, the 
effect upon our minds of this prospect (or should we say illusion?). 

God has made good will the basis upon which our supernatural 
growth is founded. The pure heart, the right intention, are the 
organs of the higher life towards which, it would appear, all the 
soul's hopes are directed : the fundamental principle in the building 
up of the Body of Christ is making use of the subjective moral value 
of human acts. In the domain of morality the Divine and the 
Terrestrial meet and are fused into one. 

There can be no doubt but that this is a most heartening 
concept. Since man is always the master of his intention, nothing 
can rob the least of his actions of the supreme and vital value of 
merit. In all circumstances, and through all our activity, we can 
dedicate ourselves to the work of universal salvation. Nothing 

54 Writings in Time of War 

could be a greater solace. Unhappily, as we all realize, there is 
another, and a more awkward, side to this ordered arrangement, 
in that it almost entirely neglects the matter of the act, its natural 
value and effectiveness. It is, no doubt, immensely consoling that 
the 'success* factor should become of secondary importance, but 
at the same time it contains a great danger and a great weakness. 
Once we accept that principle, what will give fire to our struggle, 
whence will come the fruitful anguish of the quest for truth? 
Only the moral content of things matters: and there is no fixed 
relation between that content and their cosmic quality — or rather 
there is often an inverse ratio. 9 

Such in fact, is the Christian estimate, paradoxical though it be, 
of suffering: not only is evident, tangible, failure classed as 
accidental mishap, but it can even be regarded as preferable to 
actual success, on the ground that failure offers a wider basis for 
sanctification than success. No doctrine is more eminently in 
harmony with the teaching of the Gospels than the primacy of 
humility and suffering. There can be no possible doubt but that 
Christ took the road of abnegation, detachment and renunciation, 
and that his disciples must follow him. The road along which his 
Kingdom makes progress is the way of relinquishment, of blood 
and tears — the way of the Cross. It is thus, as though through a 
painful metamorphosis — a whole life being born from a whole 
death — that the divine cosmos germinates from the ruins of the 
old earth. 

This can mean only one thing, that Revelation satisfies the form 
of our cosmic aspirations by offering them an unhoped-for entry 
into a world that is endowed with entirely new and ideal pro- 
perties, but at the same time it does, in fact, bitterly disappoint 
our thirst for the Absolute, by affirming that the initial object of 
its ardent desire is secondary, useless and even damnable. The 
supernatural organism — and the divine Kingdom — develop 
through human progress, and at the same time independently of it 
or, what is much more disconcerting, in rupture with it. In 

9 The problem treated here, of the Christian value of temporal action, was 
later to be one of the basic themes of Le Milieu Divin. It is, one might say, 
the transposition into an evolving universe of the classic notion of the 'duty 
of state'. 

Cosmic Life 55 

consequence, they tarnish the flower of progress, or kill it com- 
pletely. Whether the terrestrial world achieves its success, or 
whether it ends in failure, I shall equally well attain the term of my 
own development — even more certainly, maybe, if failure is the 
answer. This is how things appear to be ordered : shocking to the 
unbeliever, and disconcerting for the Christian, too, since the 
latter is unwilling to abandon his hope of contributing through 
the work he does as a man and through his material conquests to 
the building up of some KTfj^ia is ad. 

If only such a Christian could believe that it was only his 
sensibility that was affected, if only he could say to himself that 
his distress was simply a nostalgia for the terrestrial horizons to 
which his soul is attached, as one is attached to the walls and 
familiar sounds of the old home one first knew — in that case he 
would cheerfully make the sacrifice asked of him. Obedient to 
the stern laws that govern all Becoming, he would have the 
strength, in order to rise higher, to say goodbye to lower and 
more easily tapped sources of pleasure. Unhappily, however, his 
anguish lies deeper. It is not simply the heart that suffers and 
protests, it is the mind that cannot understand. 

The mind cannot see that there can be a grave conflict in the 
eminently harmonious and comprehensive work of sanctification, 
that a deep rift can open up between heaven's design and the 
earth's most noble ambitions. Christ, it is true, cursed the world 
. . . but his curse fell on the self-sufficing world, the indolent 
pleasure-seeking world, and not on the world that works and 
raises itself to greater perfection — on the world of selfish enjoy- 
ment, and not on the world of disinterested effort. The latter 
carries further the Creator's impulse and so cannot merit God's 
hatred; it lives and progresses, without any doubt, in faith in a 
future that is immanent in it. Of the two or three natural dogmas 
that mankind, after long centuries of debate and after ceaseless 
critical examination, is now definitely establishing, the most 
categorical and the dearest to us is certainly that of the infinite 
value of the universe and its inexhaustible store of richness. 'Our 
world contains within itself a mysterious promise of the future, 
implicit in its natural evolution.' When the newborn mind 
surveys the grandeurs of the cosmos, those are the first words it 

56 Writings in Time of War 

falters; and that is the final assertion of the scientist as he closes his 
eyes, heavy and weary from having seen so much that he could 
not express. 

Supposing, then, that I, in the name, I claim, of my religion, 
am so bold as to snap my fingers at this great hope which is the 
idol of my generation, what words shall I use if I am to be under- 
stood by nine-tenths of my fellow-men? What a pitiful figure 
shall I cut besides those men who fight so fiercely for life, whose 
bold persistence, again and again condemned a priori though it be 
by a certain school of knowledge or of prayer that unenter- 
prisingly refuses to be committed, invariably ends in bringing 
about the triumph of human science and of human power? With 
men all around me, I shall be an isolated individual, an eccentric, 
a deserter, rapidly diverging from the only truly active and living 
branch of mankind. I shall be degraded, less than a man, working 
without conviction, or ardour or love. 

I still, it is true, have this resource (and it is a duty, too), to co- 
operate in the world's temporal progress 'in order to do the Will 
of God', 'to exalt the Church', 'to confound the unbelievers'. 
But these various motives are terribly uninspiring, distant, and 
indirect compared with the sharp spur so urgently applied by the 
necessity € to succeed 9 in order 'to be\ It is all very well to point out 
to me that there is a divine precept to make the earth bear fruit, 
but if you then go on immediately to add that the fruits my 
labours should produce are in themselves worthless and perishable, 
that the world has been given to me, as the wheel to the caged 
squirrel, in order to keep me busy in vacuo, what fire can you 
expect to animate my good will? If I am to devote myself 
ardently and sincerely to the work of the cosmos, if I am to be 
able to compete on equal terms with the children of the earth, 
I must be convinced not only of the merit of what I do but of its 
value. I must believe in what I am doing. 

And in fact, whether I want to or not, I do so believe. When 
I am working in a laboratory, I believe in science. When I am 
fired by enthusiasm for a war between two cultures, I believe in 
a superman, and I am grateful to God for making it possible for 
me to expose myself to a ghastly death in order to win the day 
for an ideal of civilization. And in so believing, I do not feel that 

Cosmic Life 57 

I am denying my faith in Christ or in any way detracting from 
the absolute love I have sworn to him. On the contrary, I feel 
that the more I devote myself in some way to the interests of the 
earth in its highest form, the more I belong to God. 

That I should feel this so strongly can only mean that, in spite 
of any misinterpretation of words or principles, there can be a 
reconciliation between cosmic love of the world and heavenly 
love of God. In my own action and in that of all Christians, 
through the harmonious collaboration of nature and grace, the 
cult of progress and the passion for the glory of God are in actual 
fact reconciled. There must, then, be a formula for expressing 
this rationally. Somewhere there must be a standpoint from which 
Christ and the earth can be so situated in relation to one another 
that it is impossible for me to possess the one without embracing 
the other, to be in communion with the one without being 
absorbed into the other, to be absolutely Christian without being 
desperately human. 

Such a standpoint may be found in the domain of the great 
unexplored Mystery, wherein the life of Christ mingles with the 
life-blood of evolution. 


Communion with God through Earth 

a: the cosmic christ 

By grace, Jesus Christ is united to all sanctified souls, and since 
the bonds that link souls to him in one single hallowed mass end 
in Him and meet in Him, and hold together by Him, it is He 
who reigns and He who lives; the whole body is His in its 
entirety. Souls, however, are not a group of isolated monads. As 
the 'cosmic view' specifically shows us, they make up one single 
whole with the universe, consolidated by life and matter. Christ, 

58 Writings in Time of War 

therefore, cannot confine his body to some periphery drawn 
within things; though he came primarily, and in fact exclusively, 
for souls, he could bring them together and give them life only by 
assuming and animating, with them, all the rest of the world; 
through his Incarnation he entered not only into mankind but 
also into the universe that bears mankind — and this he did, not 
simply in the capacity of an element associated with it, but with 
the dignity and function of directive principle, of centre upon 
which every form of love and every affinity converge. Mysterious 
and vast though the mystical Body already be, it does not, accord- 
ingly, exhaust the immense and bountiful integrity of the Word 
made Flesh. Christ has a cosmic Body that extends throughout the 
whole universe: such is the final proposition to be borne in mind. 
'Qui potest capere, capiat 9 . 

For all its apparent modernity, this Gospel of the cosmic 
Christ, in which the salvation of our own times may very well 
lie, is indeed the word handed down from heaven to our fore- 
fathers, it is the new treasure stored, with foresight, side by side 
with the ancient riches. If we read Scripture with openness and 
breadth of mind, if we reject the timid interpretations of the 
narrow common-sense that is ready to take the words of Con- 
secration literally (because faith obliges us to do so) but in all 
other contexts looks for the meaning with the least impact, we 
shall find that it speaks in categorical terms. The Incarnation is a 
making new, a restoration, of all the universe's forces and powers; 
Christ is the Instrument, the Centre, the End, of the whole of 
animate and material creation; through Him, everything is 
created, sanctified, and vivified. This is the constant and general 
teaching of St John and St Paul (that most 'cosmic* of sacred 
writers), and it has passed into the most solemn formulas of the 
Liturgy: and yet we repeat it, and generations to come will go 
on repeating it, without ever being able to grasp or appreciate its 
profound and mysterious significance, bound up as it is with 
understanding of the universe. 

With the origin of all things, there began an advent of re- 
collection and work in the course of which the forces of de- 
terminism, obediently and lovingly, lent themselves and directed 
themselves in the preparation of a Fruit that exceeded all hope and 

Cosmic Life 59 

yet was awaited. The world's energies and substances — so 
harmoniously adapted and controlled that the supreme Trans- 
cendent would seem to germinate entirely from their immanence 
— concentrated and were purified in the stock of Jesse; from their 
accumulated and distilled treasures they produced the glittering 
gem of matter, the Pearl of the Cosmos, and the link with the 
incarnate personal Absolute — the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen 
and Mother of all tilings, the true Demeter . . . and when the day 
of the Virgin came to pass, then the final purpose of the universe, 
deep-rooted and gratuitous, was suddenly made clear: since the 
days when the first breath of individualization passed over the 
expanse of the Supreme Centre here below so that in it could be 
seen the ripple of the smile of the original monads, all things were 
moving towards the Child born of Woman. 

And since Christ was born, and ceased to grow, and died, 
everything has continued in motion because he has not yet attained the 
fullness of his form. He has not gathered about Him the last folds 
of the garment of flesh and love woven for him by his faithful. 
The mystical Christ has not reached the peak of his growth — nor 9 
therefore, has the cosmic Christ. Of both we may say that they are 
and at the same time are becoming: and it is in the continuation of 
this engendering that there lies the ultimate driving force behind 
all created activity. By the Incarnation, which redeemed man, 
the very Becoming of the Universe, too, has been transformed. 
Christ is the term of even the natural evolution of living beings; 10 
evolution is holy. There we have the truth that makes free, the 
divinely prepared cure for faithful but ardently moved minds 
that suffer because they cannot reconcile in themselves two almost 
equally imperative and vital impulses, faith in the world and 
faith in God. 

10 Once the universe (nature) is an evolution, we may say with regard to 
evolution what St Thomas, speaking of the supernatural, said with regard to 
nature: Non est aliquid naturae, sed naturae jinis— it is not something that belongs 
to nature, but nature's (final) end. 

6o Writings in Time of War 

b: the holiness of evolution 

i. The Hand of God upon Us. 'The world is still being created, and 
it is Christ who is reaching his fulfilment in it 9 . When I had heard 
and understood that saying, I looked around and I saw, as though 
in an ecstasy, that through all nature I was immersed in God. The 
whole inextricably tangled and compressive network of material 
interconnexions, the whole plexus of fundamental currents once 
again confronted me, just as it did when first my eyes were 
opened; but now they were animated and transfigured, for their 
dominance, their charm and their appeal, all beyond number or 
measure, appeared to me in a glow of illumination and I saw them 
hallowed and divinized in both their operation and their future. 
'God is everywhere', St Angela of FoUgno said, 'God is every- 

During the godless crisis into which I was flung by my initia- 
tion into the cosmos, after the first revelation of my involvement 
in the world and of my being carried along by it, I relaxed in a 
sort of sensual abandonment, the instinctive reaction of an 
autonomy that is exhausted by its own limitations and impotence. 
Unhappily, the Divinity that I had then thought to discern, was 
a temptress, bringing dissolution in her train; her alluring face 
masked a lack of thought and an empty heart. 

Now, I am coming again to see the possibility of allowing 
myself to follow my first impulse without any danger of diminish- 
ing my personality or of finding that what I am grasping is a 
phantom. Every exhalation that passes through me, envelops me 
or captivates me, emanates, without any doubt, from the heart of 
God; like a subtle and essential energy, it transmits the pulsations 
of God's will. Every encounter that brings me a caress, that 
spurs me on, that comes as a shock to me, that bruises or breaks 
me, is a contact with the hand of God, which assumes countless 
forms and yet always commands our worship. Every element of 
which I am made up is an overflow from God. When I surrender 
myself to the embrace of the visible and tangible universe, I am 
able to be in communion with the invisible that purifies, and to 
incorporate myself in the Spirit without blemish. 

Cosmic Life 61 

God is vibrant in the ether; and through the ether he makes his 
way into the very marrow of my material substance. Through 
Him, all bodies come together, exert influence upon one another 
and sustain one another in the unity of the all-embracing sphere, 
the confines of whose surface outrun our imagination. 

God is at work within life. He helps it, raises it up, gives it the 
impulse that drives it along, the appetite that attracts it, the 
growth that transforms it. I can feel God, touch Him, 'live* Him 
in the deep biological current that runs through my sod and 
carries it with it. 

God shines through and is personified in mankind. It is He 
to whom I lend a hand in the person of my fellow-man; it is His 
voice I hear when orders come to me from those who have 
authority over me — and again, as though in a further zone of 
matter, I meet and am subject to the dominating and penetrating 
contact of His hand at the higher level of collective and social 

The deeper I descend into myself, the more I find God at the 
heart of my being; the more I multiply the links that attach me 
to things, the more closely does He hold me — the God who 
pursues in me the task, as endless as the whole sum of centuries, 
of the Incarnation of his Son. 

Blessed passivities that intertwine me through every fibre of my 
body and my soul; hallowed life, hallowed matter, through 
whom, at the same time as through grace, I am in communion 
with the genesis of Christ since, when I obediently lose myself in 
your vast folds, I am immersed in God's creative action, whose 
Hand has never ceased, from the beginning of time, to mould the 
human clay that is destined to constitute the Body of his Son — 
to your sovereign power I swear allegiance; I surrender myself to 
you, I take you to myself, I give you my love. I am happy that 
Another should lead me and make me go whither my own will 
would not take me. I bless the vicissitudes, the good fortune, the 
misadventures of my career. I bless my own character, my 
virtues, my faults . . . my blemishes. I love my own self, in the 
form in which it was given to me and in the form in which my 
destiny moulds me. What is more, I strive to guess and anticipate 
the lightest breezes that call to me, so that I may spread my 

62 Writings in Time of War 

sails more widely to them. I would have my soul become a 
monad, flexible and obedient, transparent to the Will of God 
with which nature is charged and impregnated through and 

. . . And in this first basic vision we begin to see how the 
Kingdom of God and cosmic love may be reconciled: the bosom 
of Mother Earth is in some way the bosom of God. 

2. The Wrestling with the Angel. We are not, however, simply 
nurslings rocked and suckled by rata fJLrjTijp^ Mother Earth. Like 
children who have grown up, we must learn to walk by our- 
selves and give active help to the mother who bore us. If, then, 
we make up our minds to accept wholeheartedly the manifesta- 
tions of the divine will registered in the laws of nature, our 
obedience must make us throw ourselves into positive effort, our 
cult of passivities must ultimately be transformed into a passion 
for work. What, we now see, we have to do is not simply to 
forward a human task but, in some way, to bring Christ to com- 
pletion; we must, therefore, devote ourselves with still more 
ardour, even in the natural domain, to the cultivation of the 

The Revelation of the cosmic Christ had made our hearts more 
vividly conscious of how much we are bound up with our contact 
with tilings. Now, it is with added urgency that there echoes in 
our ears the Voice that summons us to master the secrets and 
energies of the universe and to dominate it. If the Kingdom of God 
is to come about, man must win the sovereignty of the earth. 

To' establish the truth of this statement it would not, strictly 
speaking, be essential to define in what way the world's progress 
towards perfection, whether natural or achieved through human 
skill, can truly contribute to the plenitude of Christ. Since 
immanent progress is the natural Soul of the cosmos, and since 
the cosmos is centred on Christ, it must be accepted as proved 
that, in one way or another, collaboration with the development 
of the cosmos holds an essential and prime position among the 
duties of the Christian. It is in one single movement that nature 
grows in beauty and the Body of Christ reaches its full develop- 

Cosmic Life 6} 

It is, nevertheless, essential to the precision of our work and the 
delight we take in it, that we should try to define more exactly 
some of the factors responsible for this coincidence and some of 
the lines along which it runs. We must find out what can be the 
absolute residual elements in the cosmos which are destined to 
be incorporated in the celestial edifice; in what way the segrega- 
tion of the elect into a hallowed mass may be influenced by the 
discoveries of pure science, of physics or history; and how, apart 
from the growth of supernatural merits, Christ is realized in 

A first answer, very modest and yet, if fully understood, one of 
urgent importance, is as follows: more than any other man, the 
Christian is attached to the work of the cosmos, in as much as 
that work is necessary if the world is to endure. Let us, for a moment, 
put it at the lowest. Let us admit that in itself the material, 
biological and social stock on which individuals mature, is liable 
to wither away entirely. Let us admit, too, that its fruits must 
continue indefinitely to be produced in a similar form common 
to all, no profound transformation having henceforth the power 
to introduce any variation into the human species. In that case 
the cosmos has no value other than that of a seed-bed or training 
ground in which, through scientific examination and contem- 
plation of created beings, the soul, 'in a practice run' improves 
and sharpens its faculties, and uses lower objects to learn how to 
choose and love. But even so, this stock, this centre of culture, 
must endure and remain fresh and green as long as Heaven con- 
tinues to call for saints; and this it cannot do without great heat 
and great tension. Like every moving body, the world holds 
together only through its driving force and momentum. Were 
the multitude of monads it contains to check the ferment of their 
activities, their industry and their natural exploration, the world 
would crash like an aircraft whose engines fail. We Christians 
sometimes ask ourselves anxiously what good purpose is served 
by our long spells of laboratory work, our endless digging into 
everything that conceals a mystery. We should take comfort. 
We are exhausting ourselves in at least keeping the earth going until 
the Body of Christ is consummated. 

In truth, however, it would not be enough to ensure the har- 

64 Writings in Time of War 

mony of creation and to encourage us to continue our efforts, 
if the useful purpose served by the natural products of our 
labours were no more than this work of maintenance. Let us 
admit, again, that, in its stock, the cosmos can perish, leaving no 
residue. Who can prove to us that the immortal persons, de- 
tached from it in the course of centuries, are not subject to some 
absolute natural development, that the original small, tart, berries 
will not be succeeded by plumper and more delightful fruit? 
Man, through his spiritual soul, steps up into a new ontological 
and biological level. Who can assure us that no slope rises up 
from that level, giving access to modes of life we have never 
dreamt of? Natural evolution, we were saying, seems now to be 
fully occupied with what concerns the soul. From being organic 
and predominantly determined it has become predominantly 
psychological and conscious; but it is not dead, nor has its reach 
even been shortened. There are some particularly ancient psy- 
chic elements, such as the mutual love of man and woman, in 
which we can already appreciate the width and richness, the 
complexity and purity, which the work of time has succeeded in 
giving to the primitive kernel of a feeling that was instinct with 
brutish sensation . . . Who knows what astonishing species and nat- 
ural gradations of soul are even now being produced by the per- 
severing effort of science, of moral and social systems — without 
which the beauty and perfection of the mystical Body would 
never be realized? 

Supposing we carry our human ambitions to their furthest 
limit: hitherto we have refused to admit that anything absolute 
in the cosmic stock, from which mature souls are detached, will 
endure. What pusillanimity of concept made us do so, what 
right had we to? In its dogmas and sacraments, the whole 
economy of the Church teaches us respect for matter and insists 
on its value. Christ wished to assume, and had to assume, a real 
flesh. He sanctifies human flesh by a specific contact. He makes 
ready, physically, its Resurrection. In the Christian concept, then, 
matter retains its cosmic role as the basis, lower in order but primordial 
and essential, of union; and, by assimilation to the Body of Christ, 
some part of matter is destined to pass into the foundations and 
walls of the heavenly Jerusalem. Whence, then, will be drawn 

Cosmic Life 6$ 

this privileged and chosen matter which is to serve the new 
earth? Are we to see in it no more than a by-product of sanctifi- 
cation, developed by a reflux of grace upon the perishable 
envelope of souls? Maybe. But why, which is more natural, 
should not the purified substance of risen organisms owe some 
part of its perfections to the accumulated co-operative efforts of 
progress and evolution? The cosmic mind, although it cannot 
prove it to itself, is deeply attached to this hope, which gives it the 
joy of feeling that there is an incorruptible element in even the 
terrestrial side of its works. By thus allowing nature to take a 
further step forward it at least achieves a result that is worth the 
work put into it. The same result could no doubt have been 
achieved by a godless man, but what does that matter? The un- 
conscious does indeed collaborate with life. From another point 
of view, philanthropy, which is an entirely natural and secular 
virtue, can readily be transformed in its entirety, both acts and 
object, into divine charity. In the same way, if concern for progress 
and the cult of the earth, are given as their final end the fulfilment 
of Christ, why should not they be transformed into a great virtue, 
as yet unnamed, which would be the widest form of the love of God, 
found and served in creation? 

In virtue, therefore, of his faith, the Christian is justified in 
claiming a place among those who work for the greatest advance- 
ment of the earth; and the soul he brings to that work will be 
ablaze with the fire that inspires the conqueror. To the Christian, 
too, for all his renunciation and detachment and humility, it is of 
vital importance, it is a matter of life or death, that the world should 
succeed in its enterprise, even in its temporal enterprise. Only a 
moment ago the believer saw in Nature above all the enveloping 
arms of God, his creative Hands that mould . . . Now he com- 
bines the spirit of abandonment with the spirit of domination, 
and in order to obey he strips for the fight; although in his heart 
he secretly bows down before matter, he engages it in a duel that 
will continue until the consummation of all time— -Jacob 9 s whole- 
hearted struggle against a grip that he worships. 

3. The Meaning of the Cross. A price has to be paid for the 
struggle. The earth groans in travail with Christ. Omnis creatura 

66 Writings in Time of War 

ingemiscit et parturit— like a wagon that creaks and grinds, pro- 
gress advances painfully, bruised and tearful. 

One might at first be deceived by the mistaken views of 
pagan pantheism and believe that to adhere to the cosmic doc- 
trine is simply to pass from a narrow and commonplace self- 
love to a wider and more subtle egotism — a neat way of en- 
compassing more enjoyment with less risk. Nothing could be 
less true. 

If he is to act in conformity with his new ideal, the man who 
has determined to admit love of the world and its cares into his 
interior life finds that he has to accept a supreme renunciation. He 
has sworn to seek for himself outside himself, in other words to 
love the world better than himself. He will now have to realize 
what this noble ambition will cost him. 

In the first place he must, in any case, work to drive things, and 
liis own being, up the steep slope of liberation and purification, 
he must discipline or conquer the hostile forces of matter, of the 
forest and of the heart — he must bring about the victory of duty 
over attraction, of the spiritual over the senses, of good over 
evil . * . The multitude of the dead cry out to him not to weaken, 
and from the depths of the future those who are waiting for their 
turn to be born stretch out their arms to him and beg him to 
build for them a loftier nest, wanner and brighter. 

He may perhaps have to accept the role of the imperceptible 
atom which loyally, but without honour, carries out the obscure 
function for which it exists, to serve the well-being and balance 
of the Whole. He must agree to be, some day, the fragment of 
steel on the surface of the blade that flies off as soon as a blow is 
struck, the soldier in the first wave of the attack, the outer surface, 
made use of and sacrificed, of the cosmos in activity. 

He must often, unhappily, resign himself to not being made use 
of to disappearing without having been able to contribute his 
effort, or say what he has to say — to quitting life with a soul tense 
with all that adverse circumstances have not allowed him to 

He must even (and this is harder to bear than any stifling re- 
pression or obscurity) have to admit to himself that he is unusable 
and ineffectual 

Cosmic Life 67 

I11 an organism as vast as the universe any amount of goodwill 
and countless resources remain unused, and a host of failures is 
the price that has to be paid for a few successes. The obscure, the 
useless, the failures, should take joy in the superiority of the 
others whose triumph they lend support to or pay for. All 
this is indeed hard. The world, and subjection to the world, and 
the duty of serving the world, are hard to bear, like a cross; and 
it was to force us to believe this that Christ wished, overlooking all 
the highways of the earth, to rise up in the form of the Crucifix, 
the symbol in which every man could recognize his own true 

We should like to be able to doubt this, to hope that suffering 
and wickedness are transitory conditions of Life, to be eliminated 
some day by science and civilization; but we must be more 
realistic and have the courage to look existence in the face. The 
more subtle and complex mankind becomes, the more numerous 
the chances of disorder and the greater their gravity; for one 
cannot build up a mountain without digging a great pit, and 
every energy has equal power for good and for evil. Everything 
that becomes suffers or sins. The truth about our position in this 
world is that in it we are on a Cross. 

Now, Christ did not wish his distressful figure to be no more 
than a warning permanently dominating the world. On Calvary 
He is still, and primarily, the centre on which all earthly sufferings 
converge and in which they are all assuaged. We have very little 
evidence about the way Our Lord tests His mystical Body, in 
order to take delight in it, but we can get some idea of how he 
can gather to himself its sufferings; and the only way, even, wc 
can appreciate the immensity of his Agony is to see in it an 
anguish that reflects every anguish ever experienced, a 'cosmic* 
suffering. During his Passion, Christ felt that he bore upon his 
soul, alone and battered, the weight of all human sorrows — in a 
fantastic synthesis no words can express. All these he took to 
himself, and all these he suffered. 

Further, by admitting them into the domain of his conscious- 
ness, he transfigured them. Without Christ, suffering and sin 
would be the earth's 'slag-heap*. The waste-products of the 
world's activities would pile up into a mountain of laborious 

68 Writings in] Time of War 

effort, efforts that failed, efforts that had been 'suppressed*. 
Through the virtue of the Cross this great mass of debris has 
become a store of treasure: man has understood that the most 
effective means of progress is to make use of suffering, ghastly 
and revolting though it be. 11 

The Christian experiences suffering just as other men do. As 
others, so must he do his best to lessen and alleviate it, not only 
by humble prayer but also through the efforts of an industrious 
and self-confident Science; but when the time comes when 
suffering is inevitable, then he puts it to good use. There is a 
wonderful compensation by which physical evil, if humbly 
accepted, conquers moral evil. In accordance with definable 
psychological laws, it purifies the soul, spurs it on and detaches it. 
Finally, acting as a sacrament acts, it effects a mysterious union 
between the faithful soul and the suffering Christ. 

If it is undertaken first in a disposition of pliant surrender, and 
continued in a spirit of conquest, the pursuit of Christ in the 
world culminates logically in an impassioned enfolding, heavy 
with sorrow, in the arms of the Cross. Eagerly and whole- 
heartedly, the soul has offered and surrendered itself to all the 
great currents of nature. When it reaches the term of all that it 
has gone through and when at long last it can see things with a 
mature eye, it realizes that no work is more effective or brings 
greater peace than to gather together, in order to soothe it and 
offer it to God, the suffering of the world; no attitude allows the 
soul to expand more freely, than to open itself, generously and 
tenderly — with and in Christ — to sympathy with all suffering, to 
'cosmic compassion. 

4. The Place of Hell. By involving himself in evolution, Christ 

n This new approach would seem to derive, in the first place, from the 
discovery that the universe is an evolution. So long as it was thought to be 
invariable ('What has been will be', 'There is nothing new under the sun') 
the duty of state appeared to be static, and, since it is often unpleasant, it could 
be regarded as primarily an expiation. As soon, however, as we become aware 
of an evolution, a development that tends to depend more and more upon 
ourselves, then an aspect of effort, of conquest and construction enters into 
the duty of state. It can become an inspiration, the Christian seeing it as 
realizing a necessary condition for the Kingdom of God. 

Cosmic Life 69 

has brought its resources and mechanism to their acme of per- 
fection and fruitfulness. Everything, everything without ex- 
ception, even suffering and misfortune, can, in the order of 
salvation, be of service to the monad of good will. Omnia co- 
operantur in bonum — 'all things work together for good'. 

Following the laws that govern every process of becoming, and 
in particular every form of segregation, the Genesis of the mystical 
and cosmic Body, though theoretically possible without any loss, 
is yet accompanied, in fact, by a dissipation of energy and life for 
which countless mortal and venial faults are responsible. Why 
must this be so? 

What is more, the sinister and frightening loss of the damned — a 
permanent loss, mark you — recurs — freely, on our side, and yet 
with all the marks of an organic inevitability. Why, again, must this 
be so? 

The man who has strengthened and trained his powers of 
insight in his intuition of the cosmos, of its global harmony and 
its demands, may not be able, it is true, to answer those questions; 
but it will be no shock to him to find that here, as elsewhere, a 
hell is the natural corollary of heaven, and he will learn to 
dread it. 

Let us pray: 

Lord Jesus Christ, you truly contain within your gentleness, 
within your humanity, all the unyielding immensity and 
grandeur of the world. And it is because of this, it is because there 
exists in you this ineffable synthesis of what our human thought 
and experience would never have dared join together in order to 
adore them — element and totality, the one and the many, mind 
and matter, the infinite and the personal; it is because of the 
indefinable contours which this complexity gives to your appear- 
ance and to your activity, that my heart, enamoured of cosmic 
reality, gives itself passionately to you. 

I love you, Lord Jesus, because of the multitude who shelter 
within you and whom, if one clings closely to you, one can hear 
with all the other beings murmuring, praying, weeping. . . . 

I love you because of the transcendent and inexorable fixity of 
your purposes, which causes your sweet friendship to be coloured 

70 Writings in Time of War 

by an intransigent determinism and to gather us all ruthlessly into 
the folds of its will. 

I love you as the source, the activating and life-giving ambience, 
the term and consummation, of the world, even of the natural 
world, and of its process of becoming. 

You the Centre at which all things meet and which stretches 
out over all things so as to draw them back into itself: I love you 
for the extensions of your body and soul to the farthest corners 
of creation through grace, through life, and through matter. 

Lord Jesus, you who are as gentle as the human heart, as fiery 
as the forces of nature, as intimate as life itself, you in whom I can 
melt away and with whom I must have mastery and freedom: I 
love you as a world, as this world which has captivated my 
heart; and it is you, I now realize, that my brother-men, even 
those who do not believe, sense and seek throughout the magic 
immensities of the cosmos. 

Lord Jesus, you are the centre towards which all things are 
moving: if it be possible, make a place for us all in the company 
of those elect and holy ones whom your loving care has liberated 
one by one from the chaos of our present existence and who now 
are being slowly incorporated into you in the unity of the new 

To live the cosmic life is to live dominated by the consciousness 
that one is an atom in the body of the mystical and cosmic 
Christ. The man who so lives dismisses as irrelevant a host of 
preoccupations that absorb the interest of other men: his life is 
projected further, and his heart more widely receptive. 
There you have my intellectual testament. 

24 April 1916. Easter Week. 
Fort-Mardik (Dunkirk). 

The following passage is written on a loose sheet attached to the manu- 
script notebook: 

Nota. Cosmic Life describes the aspirations and formulates the 
practical activities of a concrete life. If one tries to bring out the 

Cosmic Life 71 

presuppositions and principles it is based on, one finds that it 
introduces a completely new orientation into Christian ascetical 

In 'classical' interpretations, suffering is fast and foremost a 
punishment, an expiation; its effectiveness is that of a sacrifice: it is 
born of a sin, and makes reparation for the sin. It is good to 
suffer, in order to master oneself, conquer and free oneself. 

In contrast with this view, suffering, according to the general 
line followed by Cosmic Life and the ideas it puts forward, is 
primarily the consequence of a work of development and the price 
that has to be paid for it. Its effectiveness is that of an effort. 
Physical and moral evil are produced by the process of Becoming: 
everything that evolves has its own sufferings and commits its 
own faults. The Cross is the symbol of the arduous labour of 
Evolution— -rather than the symbol of expiation. 

These two points of view can obviously be reconciled, if, for 
example, we admit that the natural consequence of the Fall of 
Man was to return Mankind to its connatural setting of progress 
and work 'by the sweat of its brow*. (And, in that case, it is 
notewordiy that, as far as appearances go, the Fall leaves no mark 
at all, since its visible penalty is contained in Evolution, with 
Expiation coinciding with Work.) 

. . . Even so, there is a great difference of emphasis between 
expiatory ascesis and the ascesis underlying l cosmic life 9 . 

. . . And I would have been dishonest not to point this out. 

17 May tgi6 

Mastery of the World 
and the Kingdom of God 

The first distinct reference to the subject-matter of this essay occurs in a 
letter from Pere Teilhard to his cousin, Mile Marguerite Teillard- 
Chambon, dated 4 August 1916: 

'It seemed to me, in support of my theories of Christian co-operation 
with progress, that there was a real law or natural duty of pursuing 
research to the very end. Don't you agree that it's a matter of loyalty 
and "conscience" to strive to extract from the world all that this world 
can hold of truth and energy? There must be nothing in the direction 
of more-being that remains unattempted. Heaven would have us 
help ourselves (help it). It seems to me impossible to concede that 
revelation should have come to release us from the duty (/pursuit; 
and in the grave defect (or rather temptation) of "extrinsicism" from 
which churchmen suffer (in wanting to make theological and a priori 
judgments about all reality) I see as much laziness as complacency. It's 
not only from cosmic enthusiasm but also as a strict natural moral 
duty that we must strive to see more clearly, and thus act more effec- 
tively. Under pain of sin, we must try every road . . . (plumb all 
things, even since the coming of our Lord).' 

Some days later, he was distressed and upset by the death of his 
friend Pierre Boussac, who had been hit in the back by a shell splinter. 
He wrote, again to his cousin, on 8 September: 
'At first I thought that my reaction would be an embittered rejection of 
all that I had "worshipped". Instead of working to improve things in 
the world and extend its conquests (in the spirit you know) would it not 
be better to abandon to its own sort of suicide this ridiculous world that 
destroys its finest products, and then, devoting one's mind entirely to 
supernatural things, sing a dirge over the ruins of all that here below 
seems beautiful and precious? . . . But then I pulled myself together. 
I reflected that God constantly, even when it's a matter of what are 

74 Writings in Time of War 

manifestly most saintly undertakings, allows the premature disappear- 
ance of the instruments best fitted to achieve his glory. I told myself that 
mans labour, whatever form it may take, must be essentially tenacious, 
patient, gentle, . . . and I told myself that I would carry on. 9 

In the same letter he says that he has 'not yet got down to writing a 

'There'll be a first chapter which I'll probably do separately, on "the 
duty of research". I think that man has a fundamental obligation to 
extract from himself and from the earth all that it can give; and this obli- 
gation is all the more imperative in that we are absolutely ignorant of what 
limits — they may still be very distant — Go d has imposed on our natural 
understanding and power.' 1 

T?he Teilhard's regiment was billeted at that time in Nant-le- 
Grand, a little village in the Meuse, south of Verdun, in a 'very damp, 
wooded, valley'. It was there that he wrote 'Mastery of the World 
and the Kingdom of God', which he finished on September 20th. 

L 'Making of a Mind 9 , pp. 116, 123-124, 126. 


Man lives both by bread and by the Word of God 


I have already tried, in writing Cosmic Life, to point out that a 
legitimate reconciliation can be effected between Christianity and 
the world, on the basis of an honest pursuit of progress, founded 
on conviction, and a wholehearted sharing in a certain faith in 
life and the value of evolution. 

In that essay I pictured the soul, aroused to a passion for extra- 
individual and cosmic realities, flinging itself upon the universe 
in the whole of which it hears the summons of a Godhead; and I 
described how, when the soul grasps it, the Absolute is seen to be 
and assumes the form of a movement of ascent and segregation, 
made up of bold conquest, intensive socialization, and constant 
detachment. This movement goes on until the truth come down 
from heaven meets the truth developed on earth and synthesizes 
all the world's hopes in the blessed reality of Christ, whose Body 
is the centre of elect life. 

What I wrote was, to be exact, the story of a conversion. 

What I now wish to do is to return to that idea of a legitimate 
and indispensable reconciliation of mankind's natural and super- 
natural evolution, and treat it more objectively, more coolly and 
more systematically. Every man who is anxious to introduce 
unity into his life must squarely face, and openly proclaim, these 
two facts: first, that a too 'detached' Christianity or an exclusively 
secular cult of the world, is incapable of giving the heart of man 
all the nourishment it requires, or of existing in isolation; and 
secondly, that both, on the other hand, are manifestly well fitted 

76 Writings in Time of War 

to complete one another, and so enable our action to put out its 
full effort in carrying out its logical purpose. 

I wish to prove that the proper balance of man's development 
is not to be found exclusively either in obedience to terrestrial 
laws and impulses, or in adhering to dogmas and a spirit re- 
vealed to us by our Heavenly Father, but in an effort towards 
God that forces the blood through every single vein in the 
universe without exception. It is in order to prove this that I am 
undertaking this study, for the glory of God, 2 for peace, unity, 
and the freedom of minds of good will. 

(Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady) 

Nant-le-Grand (Meuse) 

15 September 1916 


The Two Halves of Truth 

1. The Service of the Earth. No one can observe, over a sufficient 
length of time, the activity of the mass of mankind — expressed in 
its appetites, in the things it takes pleasure in, in the things it 
worships, in its conquests — without being astounded by the 
extraordinary depth and power of the changes he notices. From 
time to time a great common aspiration comes to the surface from 
roots that He deep down in mankind. At a given moment, the 
whole mass of souls thrills as it opens its eyes to a new light. 
Their multitude, for all its diversity, forms one whole in the 
unanimous and undisputed acceptance of a truth that is spon- 
taneously taken as established; and, in one body, they set out 
together as though to find a new Holy Grail. 
Thus we find the humanists and scientists of the Renaissance 

a 'For the glory of God*. It was again 'the greater glory of God* he was to 
invoke in March 1955, some days before his death, in his Recherche, Travail, 
et Adoration. 

Mastery of the World and the Kingdom of God 77 

possessed by an irresistible passion for nature, new-found and 
loved to distraction. Later, an almost frenzied sense of exaltation 
brings tears to the eyes of our forefathers at the mere mention of 
the words, taken to heart once and for ever more, liberty and 
fraternity. Later again, only yesterday, a reasoned conviction of 
man's power, combined with a keen intuition of the universal 
process of becoming, inflexibly determined the advance of 
progress in the direction of mastery of the world. And now 
today, we see new currents of thought and new desires multiply- 
ing in every domain. In education, as in religious activities, there 
is a tendency to make progressively more allowance for the 
freedom of the individual, and this because there is a general 
awareness of the respect to which the unique and incommunicable 
development of every soul is entitled. In political and social 
affairs, the ideas of democracy and association are irresistibly 
making their way into the consciousness of the humblest worker. 
Class comes into conflict with class, in the search for a greater 
measure of justice. Nationalities seek to emerge, and are estab- 
lishing themselves, cutting across the secondary accidents of 
political combinations; and at the same time, transcending 
existing frontiers, a start is being made in forging new links that 
nothing will henceforth be able to break. Meanwhile feminism 
has asserted itself among the claims both of masses and of an 
61ite; and sooner or later woman will have to be given a generous 
place in the sun. 

Minds that are exclusively accustomed to looking in every- 
thing for the rational explanation and the consciously appreciated 
causes, are at a loss when they are presented with these turbulent 
awakenings and obscure tendencies. At first, their curiosity is 
aroused, but they soon turn away, shocked or with a smile. They 
feel that such phenomena are too erratic to detain the historian, 
too wayward to merit the attention of the serious thinker; they 
should be classed among the unpredictable whims of chance or 
the superficial ups and downs of fashion. Such people under- 
stand nothing of the mystery of life. 

On the other hand, let a man whom long acquaintance has 
made familiar with the sources of matter and energies and with 
their underlying currents, let him come along and observe these 

78 Writings in Time of War 

same phenomena: he no sooner looks at them than he is seized 
and held captive by an absorbing, almost religious, interest. The 
symptoms are so marked that he cannot be mistaken. This 
spontaneous and independent behaviour, this inexhaustible 
fertility, this iron hand that yet takes hold of living beings and 
cherishes them so gently, he has met these too often before to 
have any further doubt. It is, indeed, the mysterious Divinity 
that 'possesses* and stirs up nations at the turning-points of 
history; it is once again that same Divinity, it is Evolution} 

Since the time when, through the perfecting of the human 
brain, Spirit emerged within matter as its own master, it appeared 
as though Life's transforming effort had come to a halt or slowed 
down. Once the break-through had been made, there had been 
a drop in the pressure that kept organisms at boiling point, 
waiting and seeking for full consciousness. It could, indeed, be a 
fact that the world of living bodies, like that of the stars, is in 
process of becoming stabilized, but it does not follow that 
evolution is therefore dead. It still retains and continues its drive, 
under the perhaps solidified shell of our individual organs, 
animating and directing the subtle, fluid, substance of souls. In a 
process that is infinitely more varied and exciting to watch than 
that which earlier developed bones and tissue and nerves, it is 
Spirit that is now evolving* 

Carrying on from the transforming thrust that produced the 
successive series of animal forms, psychological evolution, as 
revealed to us by history's fresh starts and crises, still retains the 
features and habits that characterized the action of that force 
upon growing organisms. 

The paths it follows are unpredictable and instinctive. No one 
can say whence its spirit will come, nor whither its breath will 

8 Cf. Le Coeur de la Matiere (1950), first part, 3 (La decouverte de revolution) : 
'It was during my theology years, at Hastings, that there gradually grew in 
me — much less as an abstract notion than as a presence — to such a degree as to 
fill my whole spiritual horizon — the consciousness of a deep, ontological drift 
that embraced the whole of the Universe I lived in.' 

4 This idea is constantly found in later writings. See, in particular, 'The 
Formation of the Noospnere* (Revue des Questions scientifiques, Louvain, Jan. 
*947> pp» 7-35). and 'The human rebound of evolution and its consequences' 
(ibid, 20 April 1948), in The Future of Man, pp. 155-84, and 196-213. 

Mastery of the World and the Kingdom of God 79 

carry; and the most certain way of running athwart it is to try 
to anticipate or force it. 

When it emerges it is still incompletely formed, driving before it a 
confusing mixture of good and evil. Its waters, working their 
way in secret underground, or lashing themselves into a storm, 
seem to be continually loaded with impurities and debris; some- 
times, again, they overflow before they find their final bed, and 
wash away part of the established order. We cannot, therefore, 
judge this flood until it has settled down and is running clear. 
Only then can one see, and have to admit, that it is infallible in its 
advance. After each new crisis, mankind has to yield to the 
evidence that it has changed for the better and has made progress; 
for life, and life alone, knows what is best for its children, and, 
what is more, reality always follows the most favourable line of 

Man's evolution, again, is irreversible in its conquests. 6 Once 
Spirit has opened its eyes to the light, it never loses sight of it. It 
holds on to what it has won, irrevocably incorporated into its 
own substance. Nothing, henceforth, can make it return to the 
illusions and dreams of its childhood, nor can anything divert it 
from the goal it has sensed. 

And why? Because the current that carries souls along with it, 
like that which carries nature, is irresistible. No temporary 
embankment or dyke can hold it in check. It wears them down, 
makes its way around them, shatters them. Inevitably, in the 
end, it runs free. Make way for the growing earth ! 

If a man is faithfully seeking for truth and for a rule to govern 
his activity, what will he do when he finds his whole being held 
in the mighty grip of this higher force? He will surrender 
himself, abandon himself, actively, to the process of Becoming 
that is forced upon him through every fibre of his body and soul. 
He will pledge himself to the service of the earth. 

5 'Irreversible' is a favourite word with Teilhard. On the law of irreversibility 
in evolution (1923), in Vision of the Past, p. 49. 'As soon as evolution reflects, 
it can neither accept nor carry itself farther, without recognizing that it is 
irreversible, that is to say immortal'. 'An irreversible ascent into the Personal ' 
(Tlie human rebound of evolution, 1947) in Tht Future of Man, Collins, London, 
and Harper and Row, New York, 1964, pp. 206-7. 'The irreversibility of 
Reflection' (La Riflexion ie V&nergie, 1952), etc. 

80 Writings in Time of War 

Here, indeed, we have the great mystery, the great sense of 
inadequacy conveyed by the natural current of things. We feel 
that we are bound, by the most fundamental passivities of our 
being, to the duty of forwarding the evolution of institutions and 
ideas; and yet when our reason tries to justify to itself the com- 
mand to work that it sees psychologically written into our 
nature, it finds itself at a loss, presented, to its astonishment, with 
a void. 

If I am to take up, with faith and passion, the task of scientific 
conquest of the world, I must have a guarantee that no sphere of 
foreseeable radius limits the results I can expect from my efforts; 
for if such a limit exists, I imagine that I have already reached it, 
and my enthusiasm for the sacred task of research dries up at its 

If, forgetful of self, I am to lend my freedom to the work that 
moral perfection and social improvement call for, I feel that I 
must, similarly, be able to anticipate with assurance a term to and 
a boundless recompense for my renunciation. A moral system 
(cf. Boutroux) 6 ceases to exist as soon as you remove from it its 
characteristic of pursuing an ideal, and reduce it to being a 
formula for 'living happily and peacefully in society'. 

In other words, the immanent evolution of the world can 
answer the demands and questions of reason — can be safe from the 
revolts of freedom — can stand on its own feet, one might say, only 
if it offers the Spirit that is engendered by it an absolute and 
assured term to its further developments and to its servitude. 

While evolution may tentatively imply the existence of this 
ideal term, and even hint at the road by which it is to come, it 
can put no name to it; it cannot give any exact definition of it. 

Like an unfinished pyramid, rising step by step from its base, 
it lies open to infinity. 

• Teilhard had just been reading, in a copy of the Revue hebdomadaire sent 
by his cousin, an article by Boutroux on freedom of conscience. It has, he 
writes, 'once again made me deeply aware of the necessity to reconcile, on the 
basis of a sincere love of natural progress, the claims and absolutes of believers 
and unbelievers'. He adds, criticizing a comment Boutroux made about 
religion, 'One can recognize, under this grossly erroneous expression, the 
fundamental mistrust of a faith that, in his view, deflowers the world by 
denying its evolution any absolute value'. (Making of a Mind, p. 121.) 

Mastery of the World and the Kingdom of God 8 1 

Does this mean that there is some fault inherent in the con- 
struction of the universe and that the world, by having produced 
the Spirit that can sit in judgment of it, will die from an internal 

2. Life in Heaven. Far above terrestrial differences, far removed 
from the interminable conflicts of thought and the ephemeral 
combinations of the flesh, floats the World of Revelation. In that 
world, everydiing is stability, everything is clarity, in the sublime 
regions, closed to science, of final ends and real substance. God 
has spoken. His Word has come down upon the Spirit of Man; 
and forthwith all the countless multitudes of beings have taken 
on, in depth, their true and finally determined perspective, and 
their exact value. 

God, the personal and loving Infinite, is the Source, the motive 
Force and the End of the Universe. The world emerged from the 
heart of his creative power, laden with rich seed. The world 
grew in stature, and sinned, and, even more wonderfully, was 
made new again. And now the souls of the just, the world's 
harvest ripened in the course of so many centuries, are being 
released from it to pile up, grain by grain, in the granaries of 
heaven, there to be incorporated, cell by cell, in the total Body of 
Christ. That is the plain truth. The world came from God, to 
return enriched and purified to God. Such is the design of the 
universe. To open wide our hearts to the love of the Being who 
animates every creature as he draws it to himself; jealously to shut 
out from our affections the transient passions of here below; to 
die that we may rise again — there we have the secret of life, 
simple and yet difficult, that our good will has to decipher. 

The human soul, deeply moved by the harmony of this divine 
world, is vibrant with a mystical ambition. In the blessed intoxica- 
tion of suddenly finding die universe it lives in transfigured, and 
carrying, perhaps, too far its interpretation of the mystery of 
Renunciation and the Cross, it has dreamed of losing no time in 
separating its course from that of nature. We must, the soul tells 
itself, forget the material universe and its painful advance towards 
an uncertain progress. We must break with its petty and lowly 
ideal. We must reject the vain figure of a superficial science; and 

82 Writings in Time of War 

then, when the fetters of matter have finally been broken, we 
must rise up to Heaven, borne on the wings of contempt of the 
world and contemplation of God. Before leaving this perishable 
world, Man sought to pitch his tent on the mountain of heavenly 
realities. He took refuge deep in the caves of the desert, or high 
on the pillar of die Stylites. 

But, as time went by, he grew hungry, ... he had forgotten 
that he still needed the nourishment of earthly bread . . . And 
when, that he might not succumb to starvation, he sought to put 
his hand again to the plough he had abandoned, he found that 
his hand had lost its skill and his heart its enthusiasm. 

No longer, alas, do we live in the days — if there ever were such 
days — when man's daily bread seemed to call for no more care 
than to gather the forest fruits or to toss the seed into a barely- 
scratched furrow! As the centuries roll on, the business of main- 
taining life becomes increasingly laborious and absorbing. The 
material economy of the human race already calls for immense 
effort. What, then, can we say if we reckon up the endless re- 
search and calculation required for the organization of social 
classes and their welfare? What of the perpetual effort demanded 
by the necessity — a vital necessity, moreover — to answer the 
questions that human reason is asking ever more insistently? 

To nourish mankind, to enable it to survive and continue on its 
road in spite of the increasing complexity of its organization and 
needs, to ensure the maintenance of its physical welfare, to fuel 
the devouring furnace of its intellectual preoccupations, this is 
indeed a labour so vast that only those who have put some part 
of their faith and of their hope into it, only those who have 
sworn to love it with an unswerving love and to put all their 
fervour into it, will have the strength and drive to carry it 

Now, can that man sincerely profess this faith, and hope, and 
love, who over-hastily dismisses nature, and claims to be so 
indifferent to the earth and so contemptuous of it that he lives 
among men as a stranger? Revelation, on which he seeks to base 
the substance of all his behaviour, throws light only on the further 
developments within things. Its commandments and counsels 
solve problems of a general order. It provides a basis and a goal 

Mastery of the World and the Kingdom of God 83 

for speculation, and breathes a Spirit into Action; but it has 
nothing to say about the nature of cosmic energies and the promises 
they hold, about details of politics and the social state, or about 
the definitive forms of thought and human organization. The 
man who looks for no more than Revelation remains lost in 
vagueness and uncertainty: and, what is an even more serious evil 
than such hesitations, he has extinguished in himself the sacred fire 
of Research. Small wonder, then, that the portion of field en- 
trusted to him remains uncultivated, or barely scratched by the 
ploughshare, just enough to meet the requirements of a meagre 

This, moreover, is not all. In seeking to rise too rapidly and 
too high, man has perhaps found that there was a weakening in 
the very energies that he hoped to concentrate, too exclusively, 
on heaven. God has not seen fit to create in us a new and distinct 
centre of affection, through which we might love him. In 
accordance with the particular ordering of our world, in which 
everything is made by the transformation of a pre-existing analogue, 1 
it seems evident that, initially, divine Charity exists in us simply 
as the flame, supernaturalized and purified, that is kindled at the 
prospect of the Earth's promises. It could never possibly persist 
in a heart that had ceased to be fired by the quickening contact of 
tangible realities. Great love of God normally presupposes the 
maintenance of a strong natural passion. If die tree that is 
deprived of the soil that nourishes it withers and dies, are we 
justified in hoping that grace will make it grow green again in 
order to graft itself onto it? 

Theoretically— biologically, one might go so far as to say — 

7 Cf. Le Ph&tomene Humain (1928, unpublished) : he speaks of 'an essential 
correction which must be applied to all our views whenever we are trying to 
follow any line of reality through a new circle of the universe. The world is 
transformed from one circle to the next. It experiences an internal enrichment 
and recasting. Each time, in consequence, it presents itself to us in a new 
state, in which the sum of its earlier properties is partly retained and partly 
converted into a new form.' Speaking of anthropocentrism, he writes in a 
letter of 29 April 1934, 'The whole difficulty lies in making "corrections by 
analogy". It's the old scholastic truth, given new youth in the perspective of 
Duration. Cf. letter of 29 Oct. 1949: 'I believe that you can push the theory 
of Analogy further in an evolutionary universe than in an immobile world- 
structure' (To Pere de Lubac). 

84 Writings in Time of War 

there would be nothing surprising in the idea of a rupture — of a 
blessed divorce — between Christianity and the world. Since life 
is a perpetual wrenching of itself out of its state of rest, nothing 
would be more 'natural' than to meet a sacrifice, a supreme 
immolation, on the threshold of the new and definitive life. 
Unhappily, the facts will not allow it. Man cannot yet so 
abandon himself to God, so live in heaven, as to relieve himself of 
his connatural task; nevertheless, since the heavens have lain open, 
that task may well seem to him irreparably tainted. 

Like an unfinished pyramid that remains hanging in emptiness 
from its apex, so life, if accepted in accordance with a certain 
absolute way of understanding Revelation, seems to lack any real 

Does this mean — if we can conceive such an impossibility — 
that by making man have no stomach for a task that is essential 
to him, the divine illumination has introduced a contradiction 
into the heart of the masterpiece its power has created? 


The Clash 

Historically, through seeking each in isolation to govern the 
behavour of men, the two halves of truth have come into conflict. 
But it was some time before this happened. 

For many centuries after the apostolic age — practically until the 
Renaissance — the duality of the two currents of life, the current 
that runs within the earth and that which comes down from 
heaven, remained blurred. To all appearances, they ran in one 
stream; for at that time man's evolution was going through a 
religious phase, and the Christian religion, for its part, had, as it 
happened, monopolized thought, the sciences and the arts, so 
completely that one might have said that they had become im- 
mobilized in its light. 

Mastery of the World and the Kingdom of God 85 

Nevertheless, the time came when the autonomous pressure of 
natural aspirations made itself felt, and threatened to shatter the 
containing walls in which it was thought to be imprisoned. 
Heaven and earth had been blended together, human growth and 
religious perfection had been identified. The two specific 
movements could not be made to form one: an internal discord 
became apparent. This was the break. 

Reacting against what it held to be an enslavement, the earth 
reviled the Church, and claimed the right to develop without any 
need of heaven, of its counsels or its help. This took the form first 
of naturalism and later of secularism. The Church, in turn, 
anathematized the world, and appeared to regard the work of 
Progress as diabolical. 

And in consequence each of these two powers suffers cruelly 
from its isolation. 8 

For a moment, the earth believed that it could forget or deny the 
essential need for the infinite presupposed by the quest for truth 
or its practice. It was so absorbed by and took such delight in its 
earliest conquests, that at first it could only relax in amazement 
and feel that it lacked nothing more. When, however, its first 
enthusiasm for these new joys and for its own independence had 
worn off, the earth turned a critical eye on its works and sought 
to assess its hopes. It was then that the yawning void, deep 
within it, that calls out for the Absolute, seemed blacker than 
ever, and that it tried to forge for itself some Divinity, born or still 
to be born, whose glory would crown and illuminate the endless 
slope of evolution: omnipotent science, mankind, the superman. 
Idols all — and who, even among their most ardent devotees, 
would be so bold as to draw the exact features of any of 
them or wholeheartedly worship them? 

In the domain of practical action and moral conduct, the dis- 
appointment and confusion are even more extreme. Not only 
does reason find it impossible to choose between the kindly doctrine 
of charity, that has compassion for the portionless, and the stern 
school of might that picks out the victors, not only can it not 
impress on men the eminent value of virginity, nor convince them of 

8 This is, of course, only an extremely simplified version of the historical 

86 Writings in Time of War 

the duty of fecundity — but, what is more, it realizes that it is 
incapable of finding a natural basis for morality itself. The im- 
perative pronounced by its exponents is always an absolutely 
unqualified statement, or an expression of economic necessity. 
Man's autonomy then revolts against a duty that cannot justify 
itself rationally, and abandons itself to enjoyment and the line of 
least effort, or, perhaps, to violence and anarchy. The whole 
work of human development, the object of such wide adulation, 
seems as if it must disintegrate in a corruption for which there 
is no remedy. 

At the same time religion, too, is bitterly aware of its impotence 
and defencelessness. Since it appeared to reject nature, it feels an 
alien body in mankind: it no longer enjoys the confidence of that 
lower, but so persuasive, life that continues to dominate the 
bodies and souls of its baptized children. Religion seeks to 
sanctify them and guard them jealously for itself alone, but they 
hear another voice, a winning voice that casts its spell over them, 
the voice of their first mother, the earth that suckled them. 
Religion is dimly conscious of this voice, and can even hear it; 
but because it cannot understand its language and its appeal, it 
mistrusts it and condemns it. Since it cannot silence the en- 
chantress 9 it would like, at least, to take her place and speak for 
her. But what can it say with any truth or insight about a world 
that does not belong to it? The Church (since she did not need 
it) was not given a special sense of terrestrial life: and that is why, 
when her rulers have sought to monopolize the whole control of 
mankind and the whole of human knowledge, they have been 
obliged, deeply humiliating and mortifying though it be, to 
remain silent, or make mistakes, or drag unwillingly behind. 

Too often, Christians have seemed to behave as though the 
universe around them were immobile. 

'E si muove\ 

Think of all the infantile maledictions pronounced by Church- 
men against new ideas ! 

Think of all the avenues of enquiry that have at first been 
forbidden and later found to be rich in results ! 

9 Cf. Le Milieu Divin (1927), p. 155 : 'The Earth's enchantments can no longer 
do me harm'. 

Mastery of the World and the Kingdom of God 87 

Think of all the futile subterfuges designed to make people 
believe that the Church was directing a movement by which it 
was, in fact, being forcibly dragged along ! 

In the field of evolution the Church certainly gives die im- 
pression of lagging behind, of allowing herself to be towed. 
And, in order to live the life of their own times, her bewildered 
children seem almost to be begging in the streets for crumbs of 
truth and practical knowledge. 

When Christ's ardent disciples see this, they are overcome by a 
woeful amazement. And even when they are not spiritually 
impoverished and attenuated by an over-scrupulous isolation, 
their hearts suffer mortal agony at seeing their loved and admir- 
able Mother so unjustly belittled and misunderstood. 



The time has come, as we can all see, at last to put together the 
broken pieces, to re-unite the complementary properties, to weld 
the apex of the pyramid to the base. Religion and evolution 
should neither be confused nor divorced. They are destined to 
form one single continuous organism, in which their respective 
lives prolong, are dependent on, and complete one another, 
without being identified or lost: the one offering an infinite ideal 
and immutable laws, and the other providing a focus of activity 
and a stuff that is essential to the transformation of beings in 
process of growth, Since it is in our age that the duality has 
become so markedly apparent, it is for us to effect the synthesis. 

There can be no doubt about it: human progress cannot (on 
the ground of its autonomy, indisputable and legitimate though 
it is) be suspected of being a dangerous force — what force, indeed, 
is without its danger? — nor can it properly be condemned as a 
manifestation of evil and an incitement to it. It holds its essential 

88 Writings in Time of War 

place in the designs of providence. Does it not come to us 
winged and haloed like an angel, the humble brother of Reve- 
lation and, with Revelation, the messenger sent to guide us as we 
advance along the road of life? 

The Church, then, must do more than tolerate it, and accept it, 
as an inevitable compulsion or a necessary stimulus. She must, as 
we anxiously wait for her to do, recognize it officially; she must 
adopt it in its principle (if not in all its methods) ; she must un- 
reservedly encourage bold experiments and attempts made to 
open new roads. So long as she neglects to include, among the 
Christian's essential obligations, the sacred duty of research? in 
other words his being bound, under pain of sin, to assist in the 
specific and temporal betterment of the earth — it will be a waste 
of time for her apologists to put forward the illustrious names of 
scientists who have also been men of prayer. She will still have 
to prove that if science flourishes in her wake, too, it is by right 
that this is so, and under her influence and not in spite of her or 
through a happy chance. 

Who then, at last, will be the ideal Christian, the Christian, at 
once new and old, who will solve in his soul the problem of 


to pass into his effort towards the divine trinity? 11 

That Christian will be the man who has understood that if he 
is to be supremely the child of God, if he is to fulfil his holy Will 
in its entirety, he must show himself more assiduous in working 
for the earth than any servant of Mammon. For some of the 
faithful, no doubt, this work will consist in spiritualizing the 
hearts and minds of men by the example of a life that is perfectly 

10 On the basis of this duty and the vital importance the Christian can see in 
research, see Cosmic Life. (Note by Pere Teilhard, who was often to return to 
this subject, even at the end of Le Milieu Divin, pp. 15 1-3; Fontana pp. 
152-4). For other references see Henri de Lubac, The Religion of Teilhard 
de Chardin, Collins, London, and Desclee Co. Inc., New York, 1967, pp. 26-7. 

u Cf. the heading to Note pour servir h I } ivangilisation dts temps nonveaux 
(Epiphany, 1919) : 'The great converters (or perverters) of men have always 
teen those in whom the soul of their time burned most intensely. There is 
always a personal tone in Teilhard's apologetics. Even when, later, he wrote 
an essay in apologetics 'to order', he described it as 'an attempt to bring out my 
own reasons for believing'. One should also, of course, when Teilhard uses 
the first person, make allowances for the literary form of expression. 

Mastery of the World and the Kingdom of God 89 

chaste and 'unmovingly' contemplative. These, we might say, 
will represent the Christian component in the pure state: but, quite 
apart from their being separated from the world through their 
social and cosmic aim, their vocation will still be exceptional. Even 
if the others, who will be the great majority, have devoted their 
lives to the practice of the evangelical counsels, their sacred task 
of sustaining natural life will rank among the most direct and 
effective factors in their sanctification. 

For these latter, not to seek, not to plumb to its depths the 
domain of energies and of thought, not to strive to exhaust the 
Real, will be a grievous triple fault, a fault of infidelity to the 
Master who has placed man at the heart of things in order that he 
may see him, consciously and freely, prolong their immanent 
evolution and God's creative work. 

A fault of presumption, that would make them tempt God, by 
hoping to obtain from indolent prayer, from Revelation or 
Miracle, what only natural toil can supply. 

A fault, thirdly, of intellectual intransigence. They are invincibly 
convinced that if their adherence to their creed is to be beyond 
reproach, their assault upon the Real must be so constant and 
insistent that a Divinity other than Jehovah must make himself 
manifest, if, impossible though this be, he still lies hidden. 

Nihil intentatum — nothing left untried — is their motto (the very 
motto, indeed, of evolution), which, in the fulfilment of nature's 
lofty destiny, brings them into line with the noblest spirit of Reve- 

The sincere and convinced artisan of progress is, in fact, a man 
of great and endless renunciation. He works; he is oblivious of self; 
he is even detached, because he loves causes better than himself, 
and he seeks for life's success much more than for his own selfish 
personal achievement. Even if, from his point of view, suffering 
is not seen directly as a punishment that expiates, nor exclusively 
as a factor or symptom of rupture with the earth, but radier as the 
condition of progress and the price that has to be paid for it — 
even so, he can at least still claim to be an authentic servant of the 

In a very real sense, too, he can flatter himself that he serves but 
one master — the master of heaven and earth — in that he believes 

90 Writings in Time of War 

that his work of disclosing a new truth to men is of no less 
ultimate value and no less sacred than fighting for his country or 
administering a sacrament. 

In so doing, he does not believe that he is transgressing the 
gospel precept that we must contemn and hate the world. He does, 
indeed, despise the world and trample it under foot — but the 
world that is cultivated for its own sake, the world closed in on 
itself, the world of pleasure, the damned portion of the world 
that falls back and worships itself. 

Moreover, he is not so concerned with the immediate and 
visible success of his work as to be deprived of joy and peace. 
Victory will come from God, in the form his providence decides, 
gratuitously in his own good time; for the worker whose trust is 
in God knows that no attempt, no aspiration, conceived in grace, 
is lost: they attain their end by passing through the living Centre 
of all useful activity. 

There is no question, obviously, of the Church's magisterium 
indiscriminately extending its faith, or even its approval, to 
include the particular detail of every adventure undertaken by 
mankind. To do that would be precisely to confuse once again 
the qualities proper to each current of life, and to reintroduce 
disorder; but the Church, for the sake of the faith and pride of her 
children, must finally decide to bless and encourage their under- 
takings, however turbulent and impetuous they may be at first. 
They must feel her look of approval and tender regard directed 
upon them, as well as the control of her vigilant hand, when they 
seek — both in virtue of their citizenship of the world and in the 
name of God's service — to head the movement that makes the 
universe follow a curve of progress that is governed by an in- 
communicable law. Never again, please God, may we be able to 
say of religion that its influence has made men more indolent, 
more unenterprising, less human; never again may its attitude lie 
open to the damning suspicion that it seeks to replace science by 
theology, effort by prayer, battle by resignation, and that its 
dogmas may well debase the value of the world by limiting in 
advance the scope of enquiry and the sphere of energy. Never 
again, I pray, may anyone dare to complain of Rome that it is 
afraid of anything that moves and thinks. 

Mastery of the World and the Kingdom of God 91 

Even when it has become clear to all that religious faith is not 
hostile to progress but represents, rather, an additional force to 
be used by Christians, in the name of what they hold most sacred, 
to forward the common task of evolution, even then, I fear, we 
shall not have complete harmony between the children of 
Heaven and the sons of the earth. Too many will still prefer to 
turn away from the Gospel and worship the Golden Calf or look 
in the sky for some star other than Christ. The Parousia, we 
know, is promised as a dawn that will rise over a supreme on- 
slaught of error . . . 12 Life, at any rate, will neither openly approve 
nor find excuses for the lack of faith that will mark those last 
days: and this is because while the Church will be fighting in a 
continually more acute moral crisis and in a continually more 
stifling naturalist atmosphere, yet, wise with the experience of 
centuries, she will be able proudly to point out to life her finest 
children busy in forwarding, side by side, mastery of the world and 
the Kingdom ofGod. lz 

20 September 1916 

12 In later years, Pere Teilhard sometimes took a more optimistic view. He 
still, none the less, maintained the dramatic possibility of evil being the final 
choice. Cf. Henri de Lubac, The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin, Collins, 
London, and Desclee Co. Inc., New York, 1967, Chapter 10, Evolution and 

18 This passage is already very close to the conclusion of Le Christique, written 
in 1955: 'Everywhere on earth, at this moment, the two essential components 
of the ultra-human, love of God and faith in the world, each in a state of 
extreme sensitivity to the other, pervade the new spiritual atmosphere created 
by the emergence of the idea of evolution. These two components are every- 
where in the air, but they are not generally strong enough, both at the same time, 
to combine with one another in one and tht same subject. In me, by pure chance 
. . . their relative proportions happen to be correct, and the fusion has been 
effected spontaneously — not powerful enough, yet, to propagate itself ex- 
plosively — but nevertheless sufficiently so to establish that the process is 
possible and that, sooner or later, there will be a chain-reaction. 

The Struggle against the Multitude 

A possible interpretation of the form of the world 

(The original contains a dedication to Marguerite Teillard- 
Chambon: 'An affectionate token of union in thought and 
Christ, Pierre, 23 March 1917'.) 

In a Utter dated 24 March 1917, to his cousin Marguerite Teillard- 
Chambon (Making of a Mind 9 , p. 189), Pere Teilhard writes: 
9 At the same time as this short note Vm sending you a notebook with 
my essay on the Multitude. Let me know whether youve received it. 
Its philosophical significance is obviously very roughly worked out, and 
may even seem Manichean. Tve left it just as it is partly because I find 
it impossible to express myself better, and partly because it seems to me 
that under phraseology that may be somewhat erroneous or contradictory 
there lies a ^pointer to truth" that might be impoverished by language 
more strictly logical or superficially orthodox. All the same, Vd rather 
have had something more personal and more completely finished to 
dedicate to you than this is 9 . 

In reading this essay, accordingly, we should make allowances for 
Pere Teilhard 's reservations, and remember that it was certainly not 
intended for publication. He is trying here to bring out a particular 
point of view but realizes that he has not succeeded in getting it properly 
into focus. (This applies particularly to the first part.) Later, on 17 
April 1923 ('Letters from a Traveller , Collins, London, and Harper 
and Row, New York, 1962, pp. 66-7), he wrote, { 7 find that the single 
great problem, of the One and the Manifold, is rapidly beginning to 
emerge from the over-metaphysical context in which I used to state it 
and look for its solution. I can now see more clearly that its urgency and 
its difficulties must be in terms of real men and women . 

At that time, Pere Teilhard was in the rear area of the front, at 
Pavant (Aisne). 


A possible interpretation of the form of the world 

Ut unum sinty sicut unum sumus. 
Si quis vult animam suam salvamfacere, perdet earn. 

a: the non-being of the multitude 

Of every being we know it is true to say that the more it is 
divided, the less existence it has. To relax the tension of our 
spirit is to make it sink back towards matter. Disintegration of 
animal life reduces our bodies to crude substance. All the 
elements of the earth, without exception, lose their characteristic 
properties and cease to exist for us, as their mass is progressively 
reduced. By dispersing, a being is annihilated. It vanishes in 
plurality. If, along the line of its essential capacities and natural 
'planes of cleavage', the stuff of things were to become infinitely 
loose-textured, infinitely dissociated, it would be as though it 
had ceased to exist. Dissolved in non-activity and non-reaction, 
it would be indistinguishable from nothingness; it would be 
tantamount to, and so identical with nothingness. 1 So true is this, 
that only the eye of the Creator could follow it in this tenuous- 
ness, in what we might call the blackness of its night, where it 
exists as an infinitely diffuse capacity to concentrate, condense, 
associate . . . Physically speaking, to annihilate the world would be to 
reduce it to dust. 2 

1 ^ ce (pp- I 5 I ~ 2 ) tne note to Creative Union, which shows that Pere Teflhard 
realized the inadequacy of this metaphysic and was trying to remedy it. 

a Pere Teilhard who, as a natural scientist, always tries to form a picture of 
what he is describing, is here making it clear that this view is not, properly 
speaking, metaphysical. 

The Struggle Against the Multitude 95 

Thus, while true growth is effected in a progress towards unity, 
less-being increases with fragmentation. 3 

At their vanishing point, things present themselves to us in a 
state of division, that is to say in a state of supreme multiplicity. 
They then disappear in the direction of pure number. They 
founder in multitude. No-being coincides, and is one, with com- 
pletely realized plurality. Pure nothingness is an empty concept, 
a pseudo-idea. 4 

True nothingness, physical nothingness? the nothingness found on 
the threshold of being, that on which, at their lowest levels, all 
possible worlds converge, is pure Multiple, is Multitude. 

Initially, then, there were two poles of being, God and Multi- 
tude. Nevertheless, God stood alone, since supremely dissociated 
Multitude had no existence. From all eternity God saw beneath 
his feet the scattered shadow of his Unity, and, while that shadow 
was an absolute capacity for producing something, it was not 
another God, since it did not exist of its own accord, had 
never existed, and would never have been able to exist — its 
essence being to be infinitely divided in itself, in other words to lie 
on the very verge of non-being. Infinitely vast and infinitely 
rarefied, the Multiple, made nothing by its very essence, 
slept at the opposite pole from Being, which was one and con- 

It was then that the superabundant unity of life engaged, 
through the creation, in battle with the non-existing Multiple that 
was opposed to it as a contrast and a challenge. So far as we can 
see, to create is to condense, concentrate, organize — to unify. 

When, accordingly, the substantially subsisting breath of God 
had produced a tremor in the zones of the impalpable, being 
emerged new-born from the depths of plurality, still drenched in 
Multitude. The centres that constituted it were so packed 
together that their agglomeration formed a continuum. At first 
there was only a sort of distended centre, whose unique character 
lay in its excess of unreduced plurality: this was to be the medium in 

3 A position that St Thomas would have endorsed: Unum et eiis convertuntur, 
'The one and being are interchangeable*. 

4 This questionable proposition is to be found in Bergson, too. 
6 The comment made in note 2 applies also to this phrase. 

96 Writings in Time of War 

which all the rest was to exist and the web from which it would 
be woven. So the ether came into being. 

Now, as a result of an unremitting work of condensation that 
was going on in this, countless nuclei gradually detached them- 
selves on the underlying substratum of indiscernible Multitude 
and infinitesimal being which it presented. As time passed, an 
infinite number of distinct points appeared, puncturing the being 
that was still confused and dissociated; and, seized with creative 
restlessness, these points made their way towards one another, 
sought one another out, and united with one another. They 
grouped themselves in continually more complicated and more 
uncommon systems, and each advance in the reduction of the 
centres — in other words each new victory over the Multitude — 
was marked by the appearance of new properties. 6 

It was thus that the world of matter became embodied — as a 
sum total of Multitudes each one of which floats within another 
more tenuous than itself; a slowly constructed pyramid, whose 
sides become apparent only when its shoulders reach a certain 
degree of contraction, while its infinitely widespread base is lost 
in nothingness. 

It was thus that the finely distilled essence of the universe, 
consciousness and thought, was produced, deep in the heart of the 
monads, by the addition and mutual fertilization of accumulated 
qualities that assembled from the four corners of nothingness. 7 

It is because we have not understood this genesis of spirit that 
we are shocked to find that the immaterial force behind living 
beings is so impermanent, and that it is so easy to make souls die* 
Psychic, simplicity, as we know it, is born of the Multitude. It 
flowers on organic complexification, supreme in numerical total, 

6 Here we have the first adumbration of what was later to become Teilhard's 
scientific theory of complexification: a being is the more complex, the greater 
the number of differentiated elements it includes, with more interconnexions, 
and forming a more fully centred organization. The complexity in the world 
increases, and consciousness increases with complexity. 

7 When Pere Teilhard expresses his view of the relationship between matter 
and spirit more precisely, he does not say that matter becomes spirit but that 
spirit is born upon the complexity of matter. 

8 Soul is used here in the scholastic meaning of the word, which includes 
the vegetative soul (in plants) and the sensitive soul (in animals). 

The Struggle against the Multitude 97 

and supremely overcome. Existing in proportion to the Multitude it 
has conquered and shelters within itself, it inevitably entails in the 
being a maximum tendency to decompose. The soul is created 
through the grouping and co-ordination of materiality. It is 
intimately linked with the dissolution and domination of a com- 
plexity that has been carried to its peak. That is why, in animals, 
it becomes excessively fragile as it becomes more refined, until 
suddenly, when we reach man, the countless factors that generate 
spirit melt into so perfect a point that nothing can dissolve their 
fusion; in consequence, the human soul can detach itself and 
subsist in immortality, even when the lower fascicle of the body 
falls apart and disintegrates. 

The human soul, then is eminently spiritual because it is 
eminently rich in conquered multiplicity. 

Nevertheless, in spite of this, or rather because of this, it does 
not represent the simplest term we can assign to creation. 

Man, who in his genesis resembles all the other monads, is flung 
into the Real with a prodigal hand. Initially, no doubt, he was 
only a small group; but reproduction saw to it that the handful of 
seed should multiply. And we should realize that this multiplica- 
tion was no mere windfall, no happy accident. The human soul is 
made for not existing alone. The world of man, as are all the lower 
spheres of created being, is essentially pluralist. The rational soul 
is by nature legion. 

This can mean only one thing, that it is made for the union that 
simplifies beings while appearing to make them more complex. 

If it is true, then, that all Multitude (all Multitude that is capable 
of accepting harmony) is the non-being of something more simple 
than itself and higher than itself which can be and seeks to be born 
of its coherence — since there still subsists around us a complexity 
(the complexity of souls) which is richer than that from which our 
thought was born — if that be true, then we have proof that a more 
fully realized spirituality than our own is possible. Above the 
refinement and condensation of every material virtue in the 
substance that reflects and abstracts, there lies the anticipated 
concentration of all thoughts in a single Mind and a single Heart. 

Thus mankind, in its teeming mass of souls, each one of which 
concentrates a world, is the starting point of a higher Spirit: the 

98 Writings in Time of War 

Spirit that will shine forth at the point on which purified souls 
will concentrate, the Spirit that will represent, in its supreme 
simplicity, the Multitude of multitudes that have been tamed and 
unified. It will be the most simple because the most comprehen- 
sive, the needle-sharp peak on which the whole Multitude will 
have converged, there to remain suspended. It will be Unity 
triumphing over Non-being: it will be a and co. 9 

It is buoyed up by this ill-defined hope that the world gets on 
with its work and creation continues, through our labour, our 
suffering, and our sins. 

b: the evil of the multitude 

i. Pain. Pain is the lively perception of our diminution of being, 
when the latter is aggravated or when it simply persists. Logically, 
then, it is closely connected with the insufficiently reduced 
Multitude we carry within us. If complete dissociation could be 
felt, it would, by annihilating us, produce absolute suffering. 

Within the extremely restricted field of our experience, we can, 
in actual fact, constantly see for ourselves, to our distress, how 
painful it is to live through the stages that separate plurality from 
unity, and how deeply is driven the divine spur that goads us on 
towards the degree of simplification that is to effect our beatifica- 

The Multitude, all the more painful in that it exists in the most 
intimate depdis of our lives, is at the root of all our evils. 

The Multitude attacks us from without and corrupts us. Through 
the purchase we offer to external impacts, through the countless 
roots we trail in the cosmic maelstrom, the fundamental fragmen- 
tation of the world is ceaselessly working to dissolve us, either by 
violence or by contagion. 

The Multitude, again, reigns within us, in the badly disciplined 
lives that congregate in our organism, always ready for inter- 

9 The letters of the Greek alphabet applied by the Apocalypse to Christ, 
the beginning and end of the universe. It is Christ who is die head of the 
mystical body, in which he unites souls. This concept is the inspiration behind 
the preceding paragraphs. 

The Struggle Against the Multitude 99 

nccine warfare, or to desert us and return to the common mass. 

It rages at the border-line of body and soul, in that region of slow- 
release in which spirit emerges from flesh, the latter completely 
absorbed in the demands and cares of phyletic life, the former 
trembling with anxiety to find its home in the Absolute it can 

It makes its way, finally, even into the texture, apparently so 
one of our spirituality. We flatter ourselves that, through some- 
thing in ourselves, we are a substance of extreme purity: and 
yet how imperfect and covered in blemishes is that transpar- 
ency, how rudimentary, how furrowed by mysterious cracks, 
that simplicity still remains. 

We are only too conscious that the plurality of our loves 
awakens in the new-found cohesion of our spirit an echo of 
humiliating and wearisome materiality : for all our hopes of them, 
the fragmentary goods that attract us, drag us in every direction, 
and on each occasion their lack or their loss leaves us with a 
painful scar. 

Moreover, it is not only alien plurality that rises to the surface 
in us without warning, or can be seen mirrored in our unity. It 
is in the depths of our most authentic, most self-contained, 
nature that we feel the restless movement, at the heart of what is 
most spiritual in us, of a veritable organic multiplicity. Sometimes 
immanent antagonisms, intra-spiritual discords, come to the 
surface in us; they tear and torment us, as though parts of our 
soul were cutting themselves off and dissociating themselves, or 
were brutally hacking their way across one another. There are 
conflicts of growth between our faculties — sicknesses and 
agonizing deaths of our passions and our beliefs, which kill one 
another and supplant one another, and inexorably pass out of our 

There is the multiplicity of the flesh, the dualism of human 
nature, the very complexity of the soul in which, at its highest 
peak, the dust of a world that has as yet hardly taken on solidity, 
shivers and shakes: the misery of our own personal Multitude 
within us. 

And the misery, too, of the universal Multitude around us. 

The suffering of being a wandering fragment of an unfinished 

ioo Writings in Time of War 

whole calls for greater subtlety of perception, if it is to be re- 
cognized, than does the evil of sheltering discord within oneself. 
We think that we feel the pain of a world struggling towards 
unity much less acutely than the torture that comes from our own 
ill-simplified individual person, each part still striving to assert 
itself at the expense of the others. 

And yet that first pain attacks us on all sides. 10 Day after day 
it obtrudes itself on us. The forms it takes, however, are so 
familiar, so commonplace, that we never look in them for the 
dominating origin that is common to them. We fail to recognize 

When our soul is bitterly conscious of the impenetrability that 
makes it a closed and mysterious world to all others, powerless 
to communicate its ideas or express its affliction, or to have its 
love appreciated — 

When it experiences the icy fear of feeling lost, all alone, 
surrounded by the horde of living beings — a nameless throng, 
heartless, faceless, whose limidess number, could our soul look 
out over its whole vast surge, would terrify it like some ghastly 
monster — 

When, worn out with exhaustion, we sink back under the 
deadweight of inertia that must be heaved up if we are to 
guide men towards a little greater wisdom, a little more good- 
ness — 

When the voice is choked in the throat, hoarse with proclaim- 
ing the truth, without ever succeeding in making itself heard 
above the clamour of the cities or without even causing their busy 
or indifferent inhabitants to turn their heads — 

When our heads reel at finding ourselves, utterly alone, 
lashed to the prow of the advancing world, with no one correct- 
ly to measure our worth, no one to have any sincere concern 
for us, no one to take over from us the task and responsibility of 
building our destiny — 

On all these occasions we imagine that what we still hear is the 
lament of our own litde self-centred being, begging some extra 
portion of happiness. 

10 Here Pere Teilhard is describing what he first called 'the pain of isolation* 
letter of 6 Jan. 1917, in Making of a Mind, p. 163). 

The Struggle Against the Multitude 101 

In reality, the groan within us is the groan of something greater than 
us. The voice we then hear is the voice of the single soul of the 
ages to come, weeping in us for its Multitude. And it is the 
breath, again, of this nascent Soul that passes into us, in the 
fundamental, obstinate, incurable yearning for total union, the union 
which gives life to all poetry, all pantheism, all holiness. 

Entranced by those great homogeneous systems — ocean, air, 
desert — man, poised over emptiness and silence, locked up 
within himself, envies the intimate fusion of the drops of water 
in the sea, of the molecules in the atmosphere; and he glimpses 
the bliss there would be in becoming continually more inter- 
mingled with Another, in sinking deeper and deeper into it, like 
smoke that vanishes, like the sound that dies away in space, like 
the stone that slips gently down to the bottom of the sea. 

When sweet harmonies bring a thrill of pleasure even to his 
very spirit, man dreams of his whole being becoming caught up 
in the essential music of the world, which would awaken and 
incorporate in its rhythm the resonance that lies muted in the 
depth of every human monad. 

He adorns with the most hidden virtues, and projects into the 
most mysterious distance, the intoxication of the unions that 
Nature effects for him. He idealizes them, magnifies them, sees a 
divine significance in them, hears in them an echo as vast as the 
universe. With his loves he mingles the concept of a nuptials 
with the world. 11 

Weary, at last, of irretrievably exhausting his impetus against 
the walls of an opaque body — and of never finding in sensible 
experience (always superficial) the clue to anything and of being 
unable to discover anywhere, in the dark places of his soul, the 
way through that leads from one soul to another — man begins to 

11 We would love as dearly as we love ourselves, The Earth, Nature, 

instinct,the sea, the infinite . . . 

Oh, to live so ! 

Our whole being permeated by those deep-lying energies, 

That so, one day, our two fused spirits 

May hear within them the song of all the world's voices ! 
(Emile Verhaeren, Les forces tutnultueuses, L'Amante: Note by Pere Teilhard). 
He had just been reading this: Letter of 12 March 1917, in Making of a Mind, 
p. 188. 

102 Writings in Time of War 

sigh for death; for death, maybe, will give back to his soul its 
initial mobility and community. 

We carry within us the dull, gnawing pain of individuation, by 
which the separation of souls is maintained and permanence 
given to their plurality: it is a ceaseless vibration, deep within us, 
of which our individual agonies and raptures are passing har- 

In us men heart-rending suffering and exasperating longing 
have been implanted as a summons that incessantly calls us to a 
more perfect unity: why should we persist in aggravating by our 
own fault, and doubling by sin, the pain of Multitude? 

2. Sin. Sin, in the will that commits it, is at first simply a mis- 
guided and particularist attempt to attain the pre-eminently 
desirable synthesis of being. All forms of concupiscence lure us 
by offering the bait of unity. 

Its first and most unsophisticated form, concupiscence of the 
flesh, projects below us the tempting picture of an easy return to 
total matter. Taking advantage of a distorted perspective that 
creates a point of universal confluence at an infinite distance behind 
us, it persuades us that the nexus of things must be realized below, 
in the depths of the undifferentiated and unconscious. 'Spirit', it 
whispers, 'has taken die wrong road. Concentration of the soul 
widens the cracks that make the world suffer. We must stop 
climbing' . The man who listens to this voice is lost to life. He 
goes to swell the herd who reckon to conquer the Multitude by 
flinging themselves upon it and making it their bride. 

In a more subtle, and diametrically contrary, process of unifi- 
cation, the man who is intoxicated by concupiscence of the mind 
flatters himself diat he can overcome the painful fragmentation of 
beings by reducing them to his own individual unity. Attributing 
an absolute value to this second perspective, which makes us see 
the world as radiating out from us — spreading out, we might say, 
prostrate at our feet — the being that is consumed with pride sets 
itself up as the centre of the universe. Everything must group 
itself around it and obediently look for its natural order. 

Whether sensual or proud, each sinner in his own way hopes 
to bring about the reign of happiness by suppressing plurality. In 

The Struggle Against the Multitude 103 

each case, however, the final result is equally unfortunate: all they 
do is to re-establish the Multitude in forms it has long left behind, 
or cause it to be reborn in a new form, proper to spirit, and more 
dangerous and pernicious than ever before. 

Impurity, for its part, brings about a physical dissolution and 
materialization of beings in their individual structure. When we 
embrace the Multitude in order to be lost in it, in some mysterious 
but real way we break the fragile links of our own spirituality. 
Just where spirit was beginning to glow in its beautiful trans- 
parency, this lower form of sin re-introduces every disintegration 
and exposes every essential joint. When the soul redescends the 
road of life and creation it becomes corrupt. It surrenders the 
tender flower of its innermost integrity. This is a thing we all 
know and for which we have all blushed. 

When we sin through arrogance we are more proud of our 
impiety. There is a semblance of grandeur in imitating the self- 
aggrandizement of Lucifer: we feel that there is something fine 
and noble in setting ourselves on an equality with God. If only 
we could see how shamefully, through our fault, the robe of 
cosmic unity is torn when we try, in our selfishness, to gather it 
around ourselves. It is not simply die internal structure of every 
monad that is then imperilled, it is the very Hope of die World, 
it is the Spirit whose birth is awaited from the mutual fertilizing 
of all spirits that is threatened. With every monad folding back 
jealously upon itself and claiming the right to bring all the others 
into subjection, die whole throng of monads is dissociated and 
scattered. Pride and selfishness are the supreme solvents of the 
unity, and hence of the spirituality, that is to come. Whether 
they attack individuals or corrupt nations, they act — and it is in 
this that their palpable malignity consists — like an impurity, 
cosmic in order, that degrades the world and keeps it chained to 

Non-being, pain, sin — ontological evil, sensibly experienced 
evil, moral evil — these are three aspects of the same evil principle, 
whose reduction calls for an infinity of time, a principle that is 
ever being reborn — the Multitude. 

104 Writings in Time of War 

3. The World in Peril Until man appeared upon earth, the 
fountain of life rose up before the Creator, smooth and straight, 
in the transparence of a single coherent effort. Obediently apply- 
ing themselves to the task of reproducing and improving them- 
selves, the lower animal forms were unswerving in their pursuit 
of the synthesis, within them, of spirit. 

The time came when the spirituality that was developing in the 
lower shoots of life attained die degree of consistence that enabled 
it to isolate itself, in the middle of the world-current, as a thing 
that was now mature. Hitherto, the centre of gravity of instinct 
had always, in living creatures, been contained in the phyletic 
region of the soul, in which a concern to maintain and preserve 
the species was dominant. It now suddenly crossed over into the 
individualist zone towards which, from the very beginning, it had 
slowly been deploying. The human soul appeared, more palpably 
as something drawn towards its own centre than as something 
demanded by the hopes of the race. 

Instantly, there was a change in the apparent texture of life. 

There had just been a sudden fall in the cohesive force that held 
together the human monads which folded back upon their own 
interior being and ignored their common future. Creation was 
going through a dangerous but inevitable phase, in which the 
surface tension of souls and their collective impetus was 
reaching a minimum; the exuberant thrust of life, in conse- 
quence, was tending to slacken and be dispersed. (Individual 
activity, we can understand, had to take possession of its own 
inner domain before it could be employed in a loftier task.) 
What had been no more than a delicate stage in the synthesis of 
spirit suddenly became an acute and almost fatal crisis: and for this 
the rash or vicious use of our liberties was to blame. 

In the first place, because our minds were critical, and became 
more and more markedly so, we began to suspect our most 
natural aspirations, and were anxious to know, immediately and 
distinctly, where we were going and with what end in view. We 
undertook to rationalize, by our own powers, the mystery of our 
destiny: and what happened was that, since our knowledge was not 
yet up to the level of the sure and secret instinct that we mistrusted in 
ourselves, each one of us believed that he could find the right road 

The Struggle Against the Multitude 105 

that all should follow. So, each pulling in his own direction, the 
fine impetus that was carrying the compact, close-knit mass of 
living beings towards one and the same vaguely sensed goal, 
suddenly hesitated, undermined by an inner discord. 

Then, pride of strength intervened, to complete the work of 
disorganization that nature had laid us open to and ignorance was 
aggravating. In their isolation, the monads began to hate one 
another, to fight for the leading place, to become intoxicated with 
independence and equality. Absorbed in their quarrels, they did 
not see that the whole swarm of them was falling headlong, and 
that at the heart of each one the fragmentation their jealousies 
were forcing on the world was inevitably being continued in the 
form of a deep-seated corruption. 

Like a limpid stream that has reached the end of its course, so 
the fountain of life lost its fine transparency; since that time it has 
been scattering in drops, soon to be dust, which inevitably fall to 
the ground. 

The appearance of the immortal soul produced a formidable 
crisis of individuation in the world, in other words a counter- 
attack by the shrinking, suffering, guilty, Multitude. We have only 
to use our eyes to see it: a dance of particles that the Brownian 
movement causes to zig-zag feverishly under the microscope. In 
that we have an exact image — perhaps, indeed, the reality — of 
our restless human activity. There is no unity, no foresight, in 
our proceedings — nothing but an orderless short-range fussing to 
and fro. 

Are we to believe that the world, like a rocket shot into the 
night, disintegrates and dies in this shower of sparks? 

No: the work is not yet finished, nor is it doomed. This 
temporary disintegration of life is not ordered towards death but 
towards the more perfect realization and, if need be, the re- 
surrection, of spirit. One thing, however, is needed to re-unite 
and gather together the unnumbered, scattering flock — a most 
mighty Shepherd. 

106 Writings in Time of War 


The principle of unity which saves our guilty world, wherein all 
is in process of returning to dust, is Christ. Through the force of 
his magnetism, the light of his ethical teaching, the unitive power 
of his very being, Jesus establishes again at the heart of the world 
the harmony of all endeavours and die convergence of all beings. 
Let us read the gospel boldly and we shall see that no idea can 
better convev to our minds the redemptive function of the Word 
than that of a unification of all flesh in one and the same Spirit. 12 

i. The Divine Magnetism. Christ's primordial role is to draw to 
himself all that, before him, moved at random. For lack of an 
influence powerful enough to guide their wayward paths into a 
uniform direction, intelligent creatures, we have seen, hesitated 
and parted company. For the universe to subsist, even in its 
natural evolution, it was necessary above all that the dynamic soul 
of one and the same vigorous impetus should again be instilled 
into men. God chose the love of his incarnate Son as the prime 
mover of the restored universe. 

Christ, then, clothed his person in the most sensible and most 
intimate charms of human individuality. He adorned that 
humanity with the most entrancing and most masterful splen- 
dours of the universe. And he came among us as the synthesis, 
surpassing all hope, of all perfection, such that every man was 
necessarily obliged to see and feel his presence, either to hate him 
or to love him. 

As soon as he had appeared, a thrill passed through the seething 
mass of mankind that made it tremble in every fibre. It vibrated 
as one whole — since a Multitude of the elect was already isolating 
itself in the midst of the Multitude that still persisted, in spite of 
everything, in wandering aimlessly. In serried ranks, those who 
had freely chosen fidelity gathered around the Shepherd whose 

12 Any reader who may be surprised by this forthright statement should 
remember what St John says in his Gospel (11:51-2): 'He [Caiaphas] did not 
say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that 
Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into 
one the children of God who are scattered abroad'. 

The Struggle Against the Multitude 107 

voice, like an assurance of life, echoed deep in their hearts. And 
they answered him, 'Wheresoever you go, we shall follow in 
your footsteps'. 

On that day ignorance was conquered by the Incarnation, and the 
universe was given back its eagerness for its unparalleled de- 
velopment: on the day when Christ, to save the world that was 
withering away even in its natural roots, took his place at the 
head of Creation. 

Moreover, the road our Saviour followed and man was called 
on to follow with him, was that very road diat being had always 
taken in order to leave non-being far behind. The reflective, 
heavenly, task to which Christ summoned and drew us, united in a 
common urge, was an exact continuation of the unconscious, 
terrestrial work of former ages: for, under an outward appearance 
of kindly and humble moral teaching, the law of purity and 
Christian charity hides an operation that is pure fire, in which the 
original plurality of being is recast and fused until its unity is 

2. The Christian Virtues. Nobody here below can fully under- 
stand the message of virginity. Even those who practise it, it 
would seem, repeat it after Christ without getting to the bottom 
of its mystery. Like a sweet sound, or a scent that moves us 
^without our knowing why, purity, by its very name and still 
more, much more, when it shows its face, awakens our soul to an 
appeal that comes to it with complete assurance and yet cannot be 
defined. Purity, we vaguely feel, touches the secret places of our 
most personal make-up. It engages the most subtle hopes of our 
substantial being. Purity is written into our lives, but what stand- 
point are we to adopt if we are to try to understand a little the 
creative function that, by the grace of God, it fulfils in us? 

Supposing we look at it from the standpoint of the Multitude. 

The pure heart is the heart that not only loves God above all 
things but sees him present throughout all things. Whether the 
just man rises up above all creatures to an almost direct appre- 
hension of Godhead, or whether, as it is every man's duty to do, he 
throws himself upon the world that has to be made more perfect 
and conquered by him, in either case his eyes are turned upon 

108 Writings in Time of War 

God alone. For such a man, things have lost their surface multi- 
plicity. In every one of them, conformably with their individual 
qualities and charms, God offers himself to man, for man truly to 
make him his own. The pure soul, and this is its natural privilege, 
moves within a vast and higher unity. In contact with this, it 
must inevitably itself become unified to its very core, and, in 
consequence, it is impossible not to see what an invaluable ally 
the progress of life will find in virtue. 

While the sinner, who surrenders to his passions, disperses and 
dissociates his spirit, the saint, whose procedure is the exact 
reverse, escapes from the complexity of affections that keeps alive 
in created beings the memory and symptoms of their original 
plurality. By that very fact, he loses his materiality. Everything is 
God for him, God is everything for him, and for him Christ is at 
once God and everything. Upon such an object, which in its 
simplicity — as the eyes can see, the heart feel, and the mind 
apprehend — exhausts the truth and beauties of heaven and earth, 
the faculties of the soul converge; there they meet one another, 
are fused together in the flame of a single act in which perception 
and love are lost in one another. The specific act of purity (what 
the scholastics would call its formal effect) is thus to unite the inner 
powers of the soul in the act of a single passion of extraordinary 
richness and intensity. Ultimately, the pure soul is the soul that 
overcomes the multiple, disorganizing, attraction of things and 
tempers its unity (in other words matures its spirituality) in the 
red-hot fires of God's simplicity. 

What purity effects within the individual being, charity brings about 
within the collectivity of souls. It is surprising (if we think of it with 
a mind that has not been dulled by habit) to note what very great 
pains Christ took to insist on the duty men have to love one 
another. Mutual love is the Master's new precept, the charac- 
teristic that distinguishes his disciples, the sure mark of our pre- 
destination, the principal task of every human life. It is on the 
basis of charity that we shall be judged, and it is by charity that 
we shall be either condemned or justified. Why was Christ so 
insistent? If all he meant was that we should be concerned with 
philanthropy, with lessening of suffering here below, with a 
greater measure of earthly well-being, how are we to explain 

The Struggle Against the Multitude 109 

the gravity of our Saviour's tone, of his promises and threats? 

Here again, without any doubt, a great mystery lies hidden 
beneath this undemanding Christian teaching. Once more we 
meet the mystery of the Spirit that has to be built up on the ruins 
of the Multitude, Christian brotherly love seeks to do much 
more than to make good the harm done by selfishness, and ease 
the injuries inflicted by human malice. It is much more than a 
soothing lotion poured by the Good Samaritan into the wounds 
of society. There is an organic and 'cosmic* opus operatum of 
charity. By bringing souls together in love, charity gives them 
the fertility that enables a higher nature to be born from their 
union. It ensures their coherence. It gradually dissolves their 
multiplicity. It spiritualizes the world. 

Purity, charity — we might be inclined to believe that the 
Christian virtues are static virtues, and that by their exercise man 
hypnotically concentrates on his own consciousness, to no useful 
purpose, or becomes bogged down in sentimental and sterile 
compassion. Christ's moral teaching seems timid and uninspired 
to those who fight for the vigorous and aggressive conquest of 
the peaks to which life is climbing. In real fact, no terrestrial effort 
is more constructive, more progressive^ than Christ's. It is not 
arrogant strength, but the holiness of the gospels, that maintains 
and continues the authentic effort of evolution. 13 

Where human holiness offers itself as a means to his ends, God 
is not content to send forth in greater intensity his creative 
influence, the child of his power: he himself comes down into his 
work to consolidate its unification. He told us this, he and no 
other. The more the soul's desires are concentrated on him, the 
more he will flood into them, penetrate their depths and draw 
them into his own irresistible simplicity. Between those who love 
one another with true charity he appears — he is, as it were, born — 
as a substantial bond of their love. 

Thus, as the multiplicity within us and around us disappears, 
so somediing more than a certain higher spirituality emerges: 

" A month earlier, on Feb. 17th, Pere Teilhard had written: 'If I really want 
to be a link between Our Lord and the regiment, I have to be the one who is 
most ready to accept the will of God, the most patient, the most mortified 
(without, of course, being clumsily passive), (Making of a Mind, p. 185.) 

i io Writings in Time of War 

it is God himself who rises up at the heart of this simplified 
world. And the organic form of the universe thus divinized is 
Christ Jesus in his own personal, mystical and cosmic body, who, 
through the magnetism of his love and the effective power of his 
Eucharist, gradually gathers into himself all the unitive energy 
scattered through his creation. 

3. New Joy and New Suffering. As Christ becomes incarnate in 
the universe and expels the guilty plurality of the world, so, step 
by step, the other evil effect of the Multitude— suffering— retreats 
and decreases. In its most external and sensible forms, no doubt, 
pain has not yet ceased to threaten us and disorganize us. The 
earth is still a place of blood and tears. Already, however, the 
blood flows less freely and th e tears are not so bitter. Above the 
torn flesh and the agonized hearts, into that deep zone in which 
the soul is moulded for eternal life, peace has entered, a peace such 
as the evil world has no knowledge of and cannot give — 
mastering peace, which conquers, and flows back to cover even 
the outermost layers of sensibility — the peace that is the awareness of 

The human heart finds first in Jesus Christ the answer to its 
prayers, so manifold and so impatient that it seemed as though 
nothing could ever satisfy them all at one and the same time. The 
insoluble problem of our desires is solved without difficulty by 
the adorable divino-human reality who comes effortlessly, as it 
were, to fill exactly to the brim their deep and complex void. Passions 
cease to trample on one another and tear one another apart; the 
flesh bows meekly before spirit and is tamed. The riddle of our 
growth is explained in one word. Since Christ has been at hand, 
our whole being is expanding and is delectably made one. 

At the same time, since Christ has been at hand, communication 
has been established between the souls that, before his coming, knew 
the misery of feeling isolated, shut in, impenetrable to one 
another. At last, crossing the fallen barrier of their temporary 
envelope, they are meeting and making contact in the unity of 

Christ consumes with his glance my entire being. And with 
that same glance, that same presence, he enters into those who are 

The Struggle Against the Multitude 1 1 1 

around me and whom I love. Thanks to him therefore I am 
united with them, as in a divine milieu, through their inmost 
selves, and I can act upon them with all the resources of my 

Christ binds us and reveals us to one another. 

What my lips fail to convey to my brother or my sister he will 
tell them better than I. What my heart desires for them with 
anxious, helpless ardour he will grant diem if it be good. What 
men cannot hear because of the feebleness of my voice, what they 
shut their ears against so as not to hear it, this I can confide to 
Christ who will one day tell it again, to their hearts. And if all 
this is so I can indeed die with my ideal, I can be buried with the 
vision I wanted to share with others. Christ gathers up for the 
life of tomorrow our stifled ambitions, our inadequate under- 
standings, our uncompleted or clumsy but sincere endeavours. 
Nunc dimittis, Domine, servum tuum in pace. . . . 

It happens sometimes that a man who is pure of heart will 
discern in himself, besides the happiness which brings peace to his 
own individual desires and affections, a quite special joy, springing 
from a source outside himself, which enfolds him in an immeasurable 
sense ofwelUbeing. This is die flowing back into his own diminutive 
personality of the new glow of health which Christ through his 
Incarnation has infused into humanity as a whole: in him, souls 
are gladdened with a feeling of warmdi, for now diey can live 
in communion with one another. 

They see with amazement that the monstrous multitude of 
human kind forms but one heart and one soul, indistinguishable 
from the Heart and Soul of Christ. 

But if they are to share in diis joy and this vision they must 
first of all have had the courage to break through the narrow confines 
of their individuality, depersonalize themselves, so to speak, in order 
to become centred in Christ. For this is Christ's law, and it is 
categorical: Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semctipsum. 

Since happiness consists in becoming unified, it may seem a 
contradiction to say that the simplification of being must be 
effected through suffering. Nothing, nevertheless, is more true, 
nor more confirmed by centuries of religious experience, nor 
more in accordance with the explanation of the world as emerging 

1 12 Writings in Time of War 

from the Multitude: that same pain which kills and decomposes is 
essential to being if it is to live and become spirit — of this Christ 
warned us, of this every day brings us a new proof, and this the 
mechanism of creation demands. 

In order first to concentrate upon itself, and assert itself, the 
soul cannot confine itself to a gentle effort of recollection. The 
substance of its affections is laden with all sorts of outworn alien 
elements. Countless parasite branches, offshoots of its activity, 
seek in the universe for useless or evil pleasures. Between the soul 
and the creatures it lives among too many interconnexions and 
'symbioses' have been established, for the sake of immediate and 
easily won satisfaction. In this at once crude and complex form, 
man is not yet ready for union with God. There is much that he 
must first expel, prune and cut away. Thus a whole initial 
unification— pleasurable and tempting — that he had developed for 
his happiness here and now, will be broken down before die true 
simplicity that he awaits and has been promised is realized. And 
this means that in order to be one, incorruptible, beatified, the 
soul must first be divided; it must suffer a sort of decomposition, 
and carry within itself the pain of the Multitude. 

Purity is a basic condition of this self-renouncement and 

And charity much more so. 

Once a man has resolved to live generously in love with God 
and his fellow-men, he realizes that so far he has achieved nothing 
by the generous renunciation he has made in order to perfect his 
own inner unity. This unity in its turn must, if it is to be born 
anew in Christ, suffer an eclipse which will seem to annihilate it. 
For in truth those will be saved who dare to set the centre of their 
being outside themselves, who dare to love Another more than 
themselves, and in some sense become this Other: which is to say, 
who dare to pass through death to find life. Si quis vult animam 
suam salvamfacere, perdet earn. 

Clearly, the believer knows that at the price of this sacrifice he 
is gaining a unity greatly superior to that which he has abandoned. 
But who can tell the anguish of this metamorphosis? Between 
the moment when he consents to dissolve his inferior unity and 
that other, rapturous moment when he arrives at the threshold of 

The Struggle Against the Multitude 113 

his new existence, the real Christian feels himself to be hovering 
over an abyss of disintegration and annihilation. It seems to him 
as though his substance were falling asunder and reverting to the 
Multitude. The salvation of the soul must be bought at the price 
of a great risk incurred and accepted. We have, without reserva- 
tion, to stake earth against heaven; we have to give up the secure 
and tangible unity of the egocentric life and risk everything on 
God. 'If the grain of wheat does not fall into the ground and die, 
it remains just a grain'. 

Therefore when a man is burdened with sorrow, when he falls 
ill, when he dies, none of those around him can say with certainty 
whether his being is thereby diminished or increased. For under 
exactly the same appearances the two opposite principles draw to 
themselves their faithful, leading them either to simplicity or to the 
Multitude: the two principles which are God and Nothingness. 

4. Consummation. Through earthly combinations that knit 
together and fall apart, the work of creation proceeds irresistibly, 
as determined by Christ, who sustains it by his influence, his 
Person, and his prayer: Ut unum sint, sicut unum sumus. That is the 
definitive formula which gives us the key to the Gospel and to the 
world. In the light of that saying, what can we discern at the 
ultimate term? 

When the plenitude of time has been realized, we may antici- 
pate a supreme synthesis of all created perfections. Dominated 
by the Spirit of Christ, who will test their totality as a Soul of 
souls, the chosen monads will be grouped and fused, on the last 
day, in a simplicity which, being born from the greatest possible 
complexity of beings, will be the highest spirituality attainable in the 
present order of things. 

In this amazing simplicity, which will be realized in each soul 
according to its merit, souls will attain supreme mastery of their 
personality. Moreover, in each of them, the intermediate degrees 
of the simplified Multiple spaced out between Christ and nothing- 
ness, will subsist in some form: they will remain distinct within 
the glorious Unity they contribute to form. The Multitude, in 
fact, will have been, not destroyed, but mastered. The flesh will 
have risen again. 

ii4 Writings in Time of War 

We cannot readily conceive the acme of a quality except in the 
form of a perpetual growth, nor the synthesis of two extremes 
except in die image of a continual alternation to and fro, from 
one to the other. Because of this, we can picture to ourselves this 
final unification of beings as a process of continual, delectable, 
progression, and at the same time of perpetual oscillation of the 
elements towards the Whole: in this, the parts are constantly 
becoming more completely one in their conformity with one 
another and their union — or, to put it another way, they are 
becoming acutely conscious of themselves and then losing them- 
selves in the all-encompassing embrace. 

That may give us just a hint of heaven — and its bliss. 

Nevertheless, in contrast with this spiritualized Multitude, there 
will be some part of being abandoned, in full life, to disorganiza- 
tion; there will be spirit that falls prey to the Multitude. Those 
creatures who have been false and have persisted in cutting 
themselves off from God, will undergo die terrifying assault of a 
resurgent multitude seething in the heart of their immortal sub- 
stance. Suffering, in full consciousness, the punishment of 
nothingness, they will struggle in a hopeless effort to dissolve into 

And in them, too, unity will triumph. 

26 February 1917 
22 March 1917 

The Mystical Milieu 

On 10 June 1917, Pere Teilhard was at Paissy, to the rear of the 
notorious Chemin des Daines. For some time he had been thinking of 
writing a spiritual essay, which he had discussed with his cousin 
Marguerite in letters that have since been lost. He writes to her (on 
June 10): 

'I'm continuing to improve and gradually give precision to the ideas and 
the scheme I spoke of in my earlier letters. Ym tending to give still more 
prominence to the realism by which mysticism lives, and also to an- 
alyse more clearly the alternating movement that carries the soul 
away from (and in turn drives it back to) the Divine Milieu, homo- 
geneous and essential, the vehicle being the particular determined jorms 
of the real that we have to know and love and fulfil*. 

(Making of a Mind, p. 195) 

Two months later, he was at Beaulieu-les-Fontaines in the Oise. 
There he had the use of a quiet room, which enabled him to work 
regularly. On 5 August, 'The Mystical Milieu was nearly finished. 
'Inspiration is coming more readily as the work progresses. I shall 
perhaps have finished my draft by the 15th. It's disappointing to 
realize how impoverished and reduced your ideas become when you try 
to fit them into a common plan. Each one becomes a small stone, cut 
down and shaped, when it might be the nucleus of a whole building . . . 
Just one reference, one para graph, for what calls for a complete study . . . 
In the end, Til have put into 30 or 40 pages what I could spend my 
whole life talking about 9 . 

(Ibid. p. 199) 

I x-6 Writings in Time of War 

'The Mystical Milieu contains, in fact, 43 large pages. It was finished 
at Beaulieu-les-Fontaines on 13 August 1917 and sent off imme- 

'14 August. Yesterday, I sent Guiguite ' The Mystical Milieu so that 
she can send it on to you when she 9 s read it. I'd have liked you to have 
been the first to see it — the more so that you re certainly the person who 
will understand me best. I thought I rather owed it to Guiguite to start 
with her — apart from the fact that as you re going to keep the manu- 
script you might as well have it last. You 11 see that there s nothing very 
new in these pages. They re primarily a clarification of points that 
you re already familiar with; and in the end I cant help wondering 
whether they re really very intelligible to anyone who hasn't read the 
'Cosmic Life 9 and 'The Multitude 9 . You 11 probably find that once again 
Tve compressed it too much. But if only you knew how difficult I 
find it to write at greater length without losing the general thread of my 
theme. And in essays such as this, it 9 s the general thread that counts 
for most 9 . (Ibid. p. 200.) 

We should note that last sentence. It is perhaps more applicable to 
this than to any other ofPbre Teilhard 9 s essays. The thought expressed 
in 'The Mystical Milieu develops, in fact, in a sort of dialectic, each 
stage of which becomes meaningful and can be judged only in the light 
of the whole. A series of 'circles 9 is successively described, which 
gradually make up the 'Milieu in which the soul lives. This method of 
composition has been compared with that of St Teresa 9 s 'Interior 
Castle 9 . Even more than when reading St Teresa, it is important not 
to stop short at, and so consider in isolation, any one of the layers that 
analysis can distinguish in the experience the writer is describing. St 
Teresa was indicating the stages of a journey: in this essay, a similar 
basic experience is given unity through the conjunction of the five 
circles: the circles of presence, consistence, energy, spirit and person. 


'In to vivimus, et movemur, et sumus* 

a: the circle of presence 

A limpid sound rises amidst the silence; a trail of pure colour 
drifts through the glass; a light glows for a moment in the 
depths of the eyes I love ... 

Three things, tiny, fugitive: a song, a sunbeam, a glance . . . 

So, at first, I thought they had entered into me in order to 
remain and be lost in me. 

On the contrary: they took possession of me, and bore me 

For if this plaint of the air, this tinting of the light, this com- 
munication of a soul were so tenuous and so fleeting it was only 
that they might penetrate the more deeply into my being, might 
pierce through to that final depth where all the faculties of man 
are so closely bound together as to become a single point. 
Through the sharp tips of the three arrows which had pierced me 
the world itself had invaded my being and had drawn me back 
into itself. 

The vibration aroused a resonance in all my affections. It 
drew me out of myself, into a wider harmony than that which 
delights the senses, into an ever richer and more spiritual rhythm 
that was imperceptibly and endlessly becoming the measure of all 
growth and all beauty. 1 

1 'In this passage ... we can see the impact of a sensitive emotion; but, 
instead of folding back upon itself in enjoyment, it becomes the source of an 
infinitely extended process of amplification: the waves it has produced are not 
lost in a peripheral zone, but cause the being to reverberate even in what is at 
once its most intimate and most resonant centre, "where all the faculties of 
man are so closely bound together as to become a single point". Just as it is 
the whole of this man that suffers the impact of the three sensibly apprehended 
arrows, so it is the whole world that has made its way into him\ M. Bar- 
thelemy-Madaule, Bergson et Teilhard de Chardin (1963), p. 80. 

1 1 8 Writings in Time of War 

I felt my body, my soul, and even my spirit 2 pass into the 
ethereal tint, unreal in its freshness, that caressed my eyes. Serene 
and iridescent, its colour bathed more than my senses; it in some 
way impregnated my affections and thoughts. I melted away in 
it, lost in a strange yearning to attain some individuality vaster 
and simpler than mine — as though I had become pure light. 

And, under the glance that fell upon me, the shell in which my 
heart slumbered, burst open. With pure and generous love, a 
new energy penetrated into me— or emerged from me, which, I 
cannot say — that made me feel that I was as vast and as loaded 
with richness as the universe. 3 

Thus, while the pursuit of an essential fulfilment of our 
nature gathers us in upon ourselves, and forces us into the limita- 
tions and isolation of individuation, each one of our emotions, 
the more it is aesthetic, the more it tends to break up our autonomy. 
The Real incessantly reawakens us to an impassioned awareness 
of a wider expansion and an all-embracing unity. It is in the 
arousing of this restless yearning that the hallowed function of 
sense-perception finds its consummation. 

We imagine that in our sense-perceptions external reality 
humbly presents itself to us in order to serve us, to help in the 
building up of our integrity. But this is merely the surface of the 
mystery of knowledge; the deeper truth is that when the world 
reveals itself to us it draws us into itself: it causes us to flow out- 
wards into something belonging to it, everywhere present in it, 
and more perfect than it. 

The man who is wholly taken up with the demands of every- 
day living or whose sole interest is in the outward appearance of 

a Notc the threefold division (body, soul, spirit), traditional in Christian 
thought since St Paul, I Thess. 5:23, and spontaneously re-adopted by the 
majority of mystical writers. 

3 We may reasonably see in this a personal allusion by Pere Teilhard to what 
he called 'the discovery of the feminine'. Cf. Andrd-A. Devaux, Teilhard et 
la vocation dc lafemme (1964) : a discovery that was neither to 'divert' nor 'dis- 
sipate* his energies. Cf. Le Cocur dc la Matierc (1950), Conclusion. Le Fiinimn 
ou J'Uuitif; and below, pp. 192-202, The Eternal Feminine. 

The Mystical Milieu 1 19 

things seldom gains more than a glimpse, at best, of this second 
phase in our perceptions, that in which the world, having 
entered into us, then withdraws from us and bears us away widi 
it: he can have only a very dim awareness of that aureole, 
thrilling and inundating our being, through which is disclosed to 
us at every point of contact the unique essence of the universe. 

The mystic is the man who is bom to give first place in his 
experience to that aureole. 4 

The mystic only gradually becomes aware of the faculty he has 
been given of perceiving the indefinite fringe of reality surround- 
ing the totality of all created things, with more intensity than the 
precise, individual core of their being. 

For a long time, thinking he is the same as other men, he will 
try to see as they do, to speak their language, to find contentment 
in the joys with which they are satisfied. 6 

For a long time seeking to appease his mysterious but obsessive 
need for plenitude of being, he will try to divert it onto some 
particularly stable or precious object to which, among all the 
accessory pleasures of life, he will look for the substance and over- 
flowing richness of his joy. 

For a long time he will look to die marvels of art to provide 
him with that exaltation which will give him access to the sphere 
— his own sphere— of the extrapersonal and the suprasensible; and 
in the vast unknown of nature he will strive to hear the heart- 
beats of the higher reality which calls him by name. 

Happy the man who fails to stifle his vision, rejecting the 
pretext that it is absurd to take interest in the world once one 
has reached the circle in which it ceases to be perceptible to the 
majority of human beings. 

Happy the man who will not shrink from a passionate question- 
ing of the Muses and of Cybele concerning his God. 

But happy above all he to whom, rising beyond aesthetic 
dilettantism and the materialism of the lower layers of life, it is 
given to hear the reply of all beings, singly and all together: 

4 Cf. The conclusion. The born mystic is the man in whom the mystical 
experience has particularly strong 'natural roots'. 

6 'Who would say this of anybody but himself ?' rightly asks M. Barthc'lcmy- 
Madaule, op. cit. p. 486. 

120 Writings in Time of War 

'What you saw gliding past, like a world, behind the song and 
behind the colour and behind the eyes' glance does not exist just 
here or there but is a presence existing equally everywhere: a 
presence which, though it now seems vague to your feeble 
sight and your crude being, will grow in clarity and depth. In 
this presence all diversities and all impurities yearn to be melted 

When he has pursued to the end the vocation contained in all 
sense-perception — when his eyes have once become accustomed 
to the Light invisible in which both the periphery of beings and 
their centre are bathed — then the seer 6 perceives that he is im- 
mersed in a universal Milieu? higher than that which contains the 
restlessness of ordinary, sensibly apprehended, life: a Milieu that 
knows no change, immune to the surge of superficial vicissitudes — 
a homogeneous Milieu in which contrasts and differences are toned 
down. As yet, he can say nothing of this diffuse Reality except 
that it exists, that it is enveloping and that in a mysterious way it 
is beatifying. It is enough for him, however, to have glimpsed its 
serene and luminous folds. Nothing henceforth can shake his 
determination to move for ever into its embrace and to find his 
happiness in there becoming ever more lost. 

Lord, it is you who, through the imperceptible goadings of 
sense-beauty, penetrated my heart in order to make its life flow 
out into yourself. You came down into me by means of a tiny 
scrap of created reality; and then, suddenly, you unfurled your 
immensity before my eyes and displayed yourself to me as 
Universal Being. Lord, in this first image, so close at hand and so 
concrete, let me savour you at length, in all that quickens and all 
that fills to overflowing, in all that penetrates and all that en- 
velops — in sweetness of scent, in light, and love, and space. 8 

6 This same word occurs again in Le Christique (1955), as a synonym for 
'the Mystic'. 

7 'The universal Milieu* is the name first applied by Pere Teilhard to what he 
later called 'the divine Milieu (pp. 128, 133, 134). See also above p. no. 
Cf. The definition of the 'mystical Milieu, on p. 137, and (p. 141) the 
'universal Centre*. Cf. The Religion of Teilhard de Charclin, p. 57 

8 'It would appear that it is human love that opens the door by which divine 
love enters. According to Teilhard, however, the truth is that divine love uses 
human love as the door through which it forces its way into a being. (M. 
Barthelemy-Madaule, op. ciU p. 306). 

The Mystical Milieu 121 

I have thought to hear it said, Lord, that among those who 
serve you there are some who take fright when they see a heart 
that feels too acutely (just as they dread to see a mind that thinks 
too much). I cannot believe that such a fear can be justified; 
since, Lord, if a man closes his soul against the summons of the 
immanent Godhead, from what substance will he draw nourish- 
ment to keep alive the processes by which he claims to sustain his 

Just as there is but a single matter created to maintain the 
successive growths of consciousness in the cosmos, so there is but 
a single fundamental feeling underlying all mystical systems; and 
that is an innate love of the human person, extended to the whole 

Like every natural force, that passion, as it develops, is liable to 
checks and perversions, to deviations. It can evaporate in futile 
poetry, it can be lost in naturalist mysticism, or take the degraded 
form of godless pantheism. 9 Nevertheless, it remains true that 
this is the only primordial, irrepressibly ebullient, passion in the 
human heart. 

If, then, a man is to build up in himself, for God, the structure 
of a sublime love, he must first of all sharpen his sensibility. By a 
familiar contact, prudent but untiring, with the most deeply 
emotive realities, he must carefully foster in himself his feeling for, 
his perception of, his zest for the Omnipresence which haloes 
everything in nature. 10 Under this single tangible stuff, Lord, 

9 Later, p. 132, Pere Teilhard speaks simply of 'pantheism*. In 1919, in 
The Universal Element we shall find him contrasting the 'Christian solution' 
and the 'pantheist solution. See also Le Milieu Divin, p. 116. Nevertheless, 
on several occasions, he speaks of 'Christian pantheism', of 'true pantheism', of 
'the pantheism of differentiation' etc. Pantheism represents for him an 'eternal 
mirage' and an 'immense temptation' which he observed in history and felt 
in himself. He longed, moreover, for the Christian to 'steal from the pantheist 
the fire with which he threatened to consume the world in a blaze that was 
alien to that of Christ.' (Panthfisme et Christianisme, 1920). 

10 It is faith in the divine Omnipresence, completed by the doctrine of the 
Universal Christ, that will provide the antidote to the temptation of pantheism. 
Cf. Le Milieu Divin, p. 114: 'The omnipresence of the divine is simply the 
effect of its extreme spirituality, and is the exact contrary of the fallacious 
ubiquity which matter seems to derive from its extreme dissociation*. Cf. pp. 
116-17, I2I-2, 130, 131; letter of 8 August 1919 on 'The need to worship an 
omnipresence' (Making of a Mind, p. 300). Later, mVAtomisme it L'Esprit (1941) 

122 Writings in Time of War 

you make yourself manifest to us and fill us with rapture; in this 
you gradually disclose to us the wonders of your existence 
among us. 

Countless numbers of beings surround me on all sides: I like to 
feel the soft touch of their infinite contact and to lose myself in 
their boundless swarm. 

Formerly, this throng of beings seemed to me incoherent and 
obtrusive. To an unenlightened observer, the atoms of this world 
seem cold and alien. They jostle and irritate us, they flit to and 
fro, they make us weary. They are like a heavy cloud over- 
shadowing life. I, too, have known the feeling of being stifled in 
their dust. The multitude of beings is an infliction hard to bear. 11 

From this I was released by the Vision of the Presence. 

In contact with some particularly loved object, something 
pierced through the dark cloud like a ray of light. A translucent 
spot grew larger until it spread throughout the powdery opacity, 
and everything became not simply warm and diaphanous but 
wholly transparent. Everything formed a single limpid mass in 
which no division between things could be seen. Clarity reigned 

At the same time, that transparency 12 filled my being, too; it 
penetrated into me, and made its way deep down within me, into 
depths whose existence I had never suspected ; and as it did so it 

he wrote: 'The thinking atom finds itself finally and for ever submerged in the 
omnipresence and omni-action of a supreme Consciousness' (Oeuvres, Vol, 7, 
p. 61); and in a retreat note (20 Oct. 1945) we find: *Domme,fact ut vidcam 
ut Te videam, ut Te omnipraesentem et omni-animantem viieam et scntiam! 
— Lord, grant that I may see, that I may see You, that I may see you and feel 
you present in all things and animating all. 

11 This is the theme of The Struggle against the Multitude, whose composition 
immediately preceded that of The Mystical Milieu, Cf. letter of 13 Jan. 191 7, 
to Marguerite Teillard-Chambon: 'I didn't know, I'm ashamed to say, that 
Schopenhauer had already spoken of the misery of individuation. In a way, 
this concurrence flatters me and gives me more confidence. However per- 
nicious a man's influence may be, the importance it assumes in men's minds 
proves that it contains a precious element of truth, in which men have seen a 
correct reflexion of themselves*. (Making of a Mind, p. 168.) 

12 Transparency: an essential word in Teilhard's vocabulary. Cf. Le Milieu 
Divin, p. 131, 'The transparence of God in the universe'; p. 134, 'within this 
transparency he will concentrate himself to the point of appearing as a child'. 

The Mystical Milieu 123 

dissolved in its mysterious waters the plurality of my being and 
its dark recesses. I experienced an unbelievable relief in feeling 
that Another existed, and through him all tilings existed, deep 
down within me. 

I feel now as though I were moving in some impalpable 
homogeneity made up of countless interfused presences. I can 
appreciate the variety and the different appeals of each one of 
these; but I can see them only as the changing tints of one and the 
same light or as areas of fragrance running through one and the 
same atmosphere. I can pass through them without emerging 
from the medium that unites them. Underlying the medley of 
inessential detail and surface charms, the Presence that spreads 
through all things is the only source that gives me light and the 
only air that I can ever breathe. 

b: the circle of consistence 

The basic mystical intuition has just led up to the discovery of a 
supra-real unity diffused throughout the immensity of the world. 
In a natural development, this initial vision immediately becomes 
embodied in a further perception, closely akin to the first, in 
which we see that there is a universal substratum, extremely 
refined and tenuous, through which the totality of beings 

In that milieu, at once divine and cosmic, in which he had at 
first observed only a simplification and as it were a spiritualization 
of space, the seer, faithful to the light given him, now perceives 
the gradual delineation of the form and attributes of an ultimate 
Element in which all things find their definitive consistence. 13 

w Pere Teilhard had sought for consistence since his childhood. Cf. Le 
Cocur de la Matiere: 'Consistence: without any doubt that was for me the 
fundamental attribute of Being*. He is fond of applying the word to the 
Absolute, to the Real, to Plenitude. Letter of 13 Nov. 1916: 'The realities of 
faith are not felt with the same solidity (consistance) as the reality of experience* 
(Making of a Mind, p. 145). Retreat, 1939: "Who, oh who, will make God real 
for us, consistent!* Man, as a created being, in himself lacks consistence: 
'Accept and love the feeling of being totally without consistence'. 'God, my 
consistence!* I Retreat, 1945). Cf. St Augustine, Confessions, Bk. xi, c 30, 
n. 40, 'Solidabor in TV ('I shall take on consistence in Thee'). Cf. below, 
p. 128 'Now that I hold you, sovereign Consistence'. 

124 Writings in Time of War 

And then he begins to measure more exactly the joys, and the 
pressing demands, of that mysterious presence to which he has 
surrendered himself. 

Joy is above all the fruit of having come face to face with a 
universal and enduring reality to which one can refer and as it 
were attach those fragmentary moments of happiness that, being 
successive and fugitive, excite the heart without satisfying it. The 
mystic suffers more than other men from the tendency of created 
things to crumble into dust: instinctively and obstinately he searches 
for the stable, the unfailing, the absolute; but so long as he 
remains in the domain of outward appearances he meets with 
nothing but disappointment. 

Even the most precious of substances have, each one of them, 
the rust or the worm that devours them. 

Matter, so enthralling and so divine in virtue of its priority in 
the order of created things and of its persistence into life, dis- 
solves, under analysis, into pure multiplicity. 

Spirit can succeed in releasing itself only by detaching itself in 
the form of monads in which the unity, and hence the stability, 
of the world appear to be destroyed rather than perfected. 

The cosmos itself, taken in its totality, breaks down into a vast 
agglomeration of individual self-centred particles whose paths 
cross and obstruct one another. 

This crumbling away, which is the mark of the corruptible and 
the precarious, is to be seen everywhere. And yet everywhere 
there are traces of, and a yearning for, a unique support, a unique 
and absolute soul, a unique reality in which other realities are 
brought together in synthesis, as stable and universal as matter, as 
simple as spirit. 

One must have felt deeply the pain of being plunged into that 
multiplicity which swirls about one and slips through one's 
fingers, if one is to be worthy of experiencing the rapture that 
transports the soul when, through the unifying influence of the 
universal Presence, it perceives that reality has become not merely 
transparent but solidly enduring. For this means that the in- 
corruptible principle of the universe is now and for ever found, 
and that it extends everywhere: the world is filled, and filled with 
the Absolute. To see this is to be made free. 

The Mystical Milieu 125 

No longer need we be distressed by the mutability of in- 
dividual beings, the detail of whose design is incessantly being 
built up and falling apart: nor by the exteriority of individual 
lives whose paths clash or are hidden from one another. 

Beneath what is temporal and plural, the mystic can see only 
the unique Reality which is the support common to all sub- 
stances, and which clothes and dyes itself in all the universe's 
countless shades without sharing their impermanence. He knows 
the joy of feeling that Reality penetrates all things — wherever the 
mysterious light of the Omnipresence had shone — even to the 
most hidden places of his own person — even into the very stuff of 
which his mental awareness, in the different forms it assumes, is 
made up. He soon comes to see the world as no more than the 
back-wash of one essential Thing whose pleasure it is to react 
upon itself, within the conscious minds it supports. To the 
mystic, everything is equally, and for ever, dear and precious. 
And yet at the same time the individual charms of each particular 
being have never seemed to him more delectable than from the 
moment when every least nicety and every trifling grace took on 
for his senses the rich colour and savour of some supreme in- 

Thus, like a rising tide, the mystical milieu has pursued its task 
of entering into and refashioning the Real. A moment ago it was 
no more than an ethereal glow that lit up the inner essence, 
common to all things, and now it is universal consistence, in 
which every one of us moves and has his being. It is not simply 
God diverting himself through the crystalline transparency of 
the world: it is he who constitutes and sustains its refractive 

Hitherto, Lord, my attitude towards your gifts has been that 
of a man who, feeling that he is not alone, tries to distinguish what 
influence is acting upon him in the darkness. Now that I have 
found the transparent consistence in which we are all held, I 
realize that the mystical effort to see must give way to the effort to 
feel and to surrender myself. This is the phase of communion. 

Gladly, then, I welcome, each in its due order and according to 
its own measure, every force and every charm, every form and 
every movement, everything that is great and strong — every- 

1 26 Writings in Time of War 

thing that stands and endures, everything that reaches out, and 
overflows its own limits. 

Lord, that I might hold you more closely, I would that my 
consciousness were as wide as the skies and the earth and the 
peoples of the earth; as deep as the past, the desert, the ocean; as 
tenuous as the atoms of matter or the thoughts of the human 

Must I not adhere to you throughout the entire extent of the 
universe, must not my love drive its roots into every single 
thing, since it is through the entire extension of the world that 
you offer yourself to me, that so I may feel you and clasp you? 

When I do so, I well know, I am repeating the outward 
gesture of die pagans and the wise men of the earth; and of those 
who see what I am doing more than one will shake his head 
and accuse me of worshipping nature. 14 

In order that the spirit may ever shine forth in me, that I may 
not succumb to the temptation that lies in wait for every act of 
boldness, nor ever forget that you alone must be sought in and 
through everything, I know, Lord, that you will send me — at 
what moments only you know — deprivations, sorrow. The 
object of my love will fall away from me, or I shall outgrow 

The flower I held in my hands withered in my hands. 

At the turn of the lane a wall rose up before me. 

Suddenly, between the trees I saw the edge of the forest which 
I thought had no end. 

A flame burnt up the paper on which my thought was written. 

The testing time had come. 

But it did not bring the unalleviated sorrow I had expected, of 
being pulled up short by the uncertainties and limitations of every 
single particular good. On the contrary, a glorious, unsuspected 
joy invaded my soul. And why was this, Lord, if not because, in 
the collapse of those immediate supports I came so dangerously 
close to accepting for my life, I knew with an unique experiential 

14 On more than one occasion Pere Teilhard was to protest against the fake 
interpretation of his work that he anticipates here. In a more general way, a 
letter of 8 Oct. 1933 refers, in connection with Buddhism, to cases in which 
the same appearances disguise contrary realities'. 

The Mystical Milieu 127 

certainty that I would never again rely for support on anything 
save your own divine consistence. 

The power to appreciate and to open the heart is indispensable 
to the awakening and the maintenance of the mystical appetite. 
But all the raptures they bring put together are not so effective as the icy 
chill of a disappointment in showing us that you alone, my God, 
are stable. It is through sorrow, and not through joy that your 
Godhead gradually assumes, in our sentient faculty, the higher 
Reality it possesses in the nature of things, but which it is so 
difficult even for those who are most fully initiated to put into 

That is why, if some day — if not before, it will at least be on 
the day I die — everything should begin to fall away from me, if 
some total catastrophe should tear down the structure, based on 
all the things I have sought for and loved, which makes up my 
life's work — then, when I see the naked form of your con- 
sistence rising up alone from the ruins, I believe that, with the 
help of your grace, Lord, the words that come to my lips will 
be the old paean of the ancient world, lo triumpe! 1 * 

16 These last paragraphs bring out the role of our essential passivities, later 
to be emphasized in Le Milieu Divin and La signification ct la valcur constructrice 
dc la souffrance; see also below, pp. 130-1. Cf. letter of 9 April 1916: 'We have 
but one permanent home, heaven: that's still the old truth that we always have 
to re-learn — and it's only through the impact of sad experiences that we 
assimilate it. I don't know whether I told you how, while I was helping Boule 
in September 1914 to put away in safety the most valuable of the Museum's 
treasures, handling the fragility of human hopes with such a direct physical 
contact, I felt buoyed up by a sort of triumphant joy: because God, his Will, 
not to be attained by anything that grows less, and yet attainable in 
spite of every disaster and ruin, became manifest to me as the only absolute 
and desirable reality . . . And even now, in my bad moments, however awful 
the future that menaces our country, I still retain this triumphant joy, based on 
a conviction of the transcendence of God. Yes, even if, contrary to all expec- 
tations, the war should end badly not only for us but for the real progress of 
the world ... even then, I would feel like repeating over all these seeming 
victories of evil, the ancient cry of the Greek festivals, lo triumpe. (Making of 
a Mind, p. 98). Cf. Horace, Epodcs, 9, 21 and 23 ; l Quasi down invocat triumphum 
(Pomponius Porphyrion, Conimcntarii). 

128 Writings in Time of War 


i. Passivity. But I look for more, Lord, much more! 

When your Presence bathed me in its light, I sought to find in 
it the supreme tangible Reality. 

Now that I hold you, sovereign Consistence, and feel that I am 
carried along by you, I realize that hidden away beneath my 
yearnings was an unspoken longing not to embrace but to be 

It is not in the form of a ray of light or of a tenuous matter, 
but as fire that I desire you; and it was as fire that I felt your 
presence, in the intuition of my first contact. I shall never, I know 
well, find rest, unless some active force pours down from you, to 
cover and transform me. 

I pray you, divine milieu, already decked with the spoils of 
quantity and space, show yourself to me as the focus of all 
energies; 16 and, that you may do so, make yourself known to me 
in your true essence, which is Creative Action. 

The first stage in the natural view of energies, consists in 
recognizing the existence of the countless transient activities that 
make up the web on which the universe is woven. It is only too 
easy to observe our dependence in relation to the objects around 
us. If we are, instinctively and as a matter of habit, to see the 
external world as a network of activities of which each being 
represents a knot, we must have a long-trained mind, and one 
that has received the grace that enables us to cherish our passivities. 

Taken to the second stage, consciousness of cosmic energy 
penetrates into the region of individual immanence. It dis- 
tinguishes, beneath the superficial autonomy of the soul, a central 
organic current — antecedent to, and foreign to, our freedom of 
choice — rather as though one could see, through our own 
personality, the track of the human phylum. 

16 The question of energy was to play an increasingly dominant part in Pcre 
Teuhard's thought. Cf. L'energie humaine (1937); Lenergie spirituelle de la 
souffrance (195 1); La riflexion de Vinergie (1952); L'hergie devolution (1953); 
L'activation de l'inergie humaine (1953). 

The Mystical Milieu 129 

In the third and final stage, the two earlier types of knowledge 
are fused together in the intuition of vast cosmic trails; in these 
whole groups of monads, linked together by transient forces, 
making up a system that tends to appear as an immanence, are 
organized and pursue their course under the influence of certain 
axial energies or collective souls. 

From the purely scientific point of view, this deployment of 
interwoven forces mounts up into a formidable and alarming 
mass: superficially, it can be mastered and made use of, but, as a 
whole, it is too much for human industry or human thought. 

Once again, it is for the mystic to carry out the task of taking 
possession of the world at that point at which it escapes from 
other men, and to effect the synthesis, which, if attempted experien- 
tially or on normal philosophical lines, can only bring failure or 
disaster. 17 The mystic was looking for the devouring fire which 
he could identify with the Divine that summons him from all 
sides: science points it out to him. 

See, the universe is ablaze! 

See how the starry depths expand in an ever-vaster magazine 
of assembled suns ! 

How, from either end of the spectrum, waves of radiation 
endlessly extend their range of shade and penetration. 

How life draws from ever more distant sources the sap that 
flows through its innumerable branches. 

How the soul is seen to be ever more lost in the determinisms 
of the universe, more difficult to descry at its centre, more ill- 
defined at its periphery. 

How there is an endless increase in our perception of the 
hidden forces that lie dormant, of the seething multitudes of the 
infinitesimal, of the things that are so vast that, being unable 
to see more than one point in them, we cannot grasp their 

From all these discoveries, each one of which carries him 
deeper into an ocean of energy, die mystic draws an undiluted 

17 A characteristic remark in which we can see how Pere Teilhard thought 
he stood in relation to the thinkers, scientific or philosophical, of his own time. 
It will be noted that the faculty he attributes to the 'mystic' is not simply 

130 Writings in Time of War 

joy. And he is always eager for more; he will never feel that he 
is as fully dominated by the forces of Earth and Air as his yearning 
to be subject to God's mastery demands. 

In very truth, it is God, and God alone whose Spirit stirs up 
the whole mass of the universe in ferment. 

What, then, are we to say of that truncated view that presents 
the creation to us as a far-distant, instantaneous act which long 
ago, in an initial phase that is now finished, produced the essences 
that the power of God now does no more than sustain and 

The heart of the seer rejects that notion as unbearable. 

The fact is that creation has never stopped. The creative act is 
one huge continual gesture, drawn out over the totality of 
time. It is still going on; and, incessantly even if imperceptibly, 
the world is constantly emerging a little farther above nothing- 
ness. The operation which raises it up and gives it form may well 
be infinitely broken up into the creatures in which the work it 
does is materialized and accumulated: but, ultimately, it is that 
operation alone — the supreme influence derived from the prime 
mover 18 — that subsists. 

Through the whole breadth and depth of the cosmos, it is in 
truth the divine action that still moulds us, as it moulded the clay 
on the first day of creation. 

Thus the mystic recollects himself in hallowed communion 
with the omni-operant Will. Delectably, he loses himself in the 
indefinitely renewed consciousness of his universal passivity. 

All round him, there float, dense-packed, influences — some 
blessed, some hateful — that emanate from elements and minds. 

18 This goes farther than the classic notion of 'continuous creation', which is 
simply conservation in being. Cf. Mon Univers (1924) : Creation 'is an act co- 
extensive with the duration of the world'; Address given in 1928: 'Creation 
never stops'. The transformist paradox (1925): God's creative action is con- 
ceived ... 'as a bringing to birth of the successive stages of his work in the heart 
of things. It is no less essential, no less universal, no less intimate either on that 
account*. (Vision of the Past, p. 102, note) 'Evolution ... is certainly not 
"creative" as science for a brief moment believed; but it is the expression of 
creation, for our experience, in time and space.' (Mans Place in the Universe, 
ibid. p. 231.) Cf. Pierre Smuldcrs, La vision de Teilhard de Chardin (1964), 
PP- 57-70. (English translation, The Design of Teilhard de Chardin, Newman 
Press, Westminster, 1967) 

The Mystical Milieu 131 

Embedded in his organisms are the hereditary characteristics 
and inexorable processes of the flesh. 

Forcibly directing the growth of his soul, there is his own 
personal temperament, the single, unalterable, passionate urge, to 
which, the longer he lives, die more obedient he will find he has 

Ordered throughout his life by providence, there are the 
crises and encounters which his vocation has survived and in 
which it has matured. 

There are forces that caress him, and penetrate him, and widen 
his being; and other forces, too, that rend, and shatter, and dis- 

As my consciousness passes from one phase to another, a flicker 
of light illuminates now one, now another, of the many shades my 
bondage assumes: when that happens, why is it, Lord, that my 
heart gradually comes to linger with delight upon some rather 
than upon others? 

What is there in suffering that commits me so deeply to you? 

Why, when you stretched out nets to imprison me should 
I have thrilled widi greater joy than when you offered me 

It is because the only element I hanker after in your gifts is the 
fragrance of your power over me and the touch of your hand 
upon me. For what exhilarates us human creatures more than 
freedom, more than the glory of achievement, is the joy of find- 
ing and surrendering to a beauty greater than man, the rapture of 
being possessed. So long as my movement and growth are 
dictated by my own desires, I can believe that I am my own 
master. But I do not feel your active influence so long as I 
follow its guidance. My ship seems to sail without rudder or 
sails. Yet when there comes a sudden squall of wind, when her 
way is suddenly checked, when she lies over on her beam-ends, 
then I feel the full strength of the force that holds me up. It is 
only in opposition to my own appetites, and only by conquering 
them, that your power, my God, takes on for my heart its com- 
plete reality, and stamps me to the quick with the beatifying 
imprint of its domination. 

Blessed, then, be the disappointments which snatch die cup 

1 32 Writings in Time of War 

from our lips; blessed be the chains that force us to go where we 
would not. 

Blessed be relentless time and the unending thraldom in which 
it holds us: the inexorable bondage of time that goes too slowly 
and frets our impatience, of time that goes too quickly and ages 
us, of time that never stops and never returns. 

Blessed, above all, be death and the horror of falling back into 
the cosmic forces. At the moment of its coming a power as 
strong as the universe pounces upon our bodies to grind them to 
dust and dissolve them, and an attraction more tremendous than 
any material tension draws our unresisting souls towards their 
proper centre. Death causes us to lose our footing completely in 
ourselves so as to deliver us over to the powers of heaven and 
earth. This is its final terror—- but it is also, for the mystic, the 
climax of his bliss: it is our final entry, there to remain for ever, 
into the milieu that dominates, that carries us off, that consumes. 

*Io Triumpe.' 19 

2. Action. 20 Just as the mystic, in following his innate appetite for 
the Universal, did not fall into pantheism, so, in surrendering to 
his preference for passivity, he does not sink into inertia. The 
very logic of his attitude (with the assistance of divine grace) 
prevents him from being tossed to and fro, like a drifting wreck, 
by the countless billows of causation. 

Above all, he is immune from the perversion of loving suffering 
for its own sake, of seeking to suffer simply in order to suffer. In 
his eyes, the only charm of sorrow derives exclusively from its 
quality of being without any possible doubt, something w- 
voluntary, of representing eminently what is in nobis sine nobis. 
As soon as pain is no longer inflicted or introduced by circum- 
stances, its heavenly radiance is extinguished for him, it resumes 
its natural ugliness, and he flies from it. 

What is more, in virtue of the principle that we only really feel 

19 Throughout his whole life, Pcre Tcilhard was constantly to return to the 
subject of death. Cf. The Religion ofTeilhardde Chardin, Chapter 5. Meditation 
on Death, pp. 47-55. 

20 It will be noticed that in this essay action comes after passivity. Le Milieu 
Divin treats of them in the opposite order. But here too, pp. 136 ff., in 'the 
circle of spirit', we shall later meet a 'higher passivity*. 

The Mystical Milieu 133 

what we fight against, he reacts normally to the stab of any 
suffering, even sent by providence, that harasses and wounds him. 
He knows only too well that the more alive he is, the more 
active, the more tenacious in his advance towards happiness, the 
more strongly will he feel the mighty caress of the wave, the 
more completely will the ocean engulf him. The man who is 
passionately enamoured of the divine milieu will never surrender 
any essential part of himself, never let himself become less a man, 
never throw up the sponge when things go wrong: only in the 
last extremity will he accept suffering, and then only in so far as 
it is unavoidable. And when that is so, he will take it to himself 
as a heavenly bride. Thus the mystic is preserved from an ex- 
aggerated love of passivity by a very excess of that same love. 
In the bliss of feeling himself conquered by God, he instinctively 
stiffens his will against evil, and fights, through failures, to make 
his destiny triumph. 21 

This leads him, imperceptibly, to find in this spontaneous 
reaction a new way, more perfect than suffering, of adhering to 
the divine influence. And thereby he discovers, as he acts, that it 
is possible to effect communion in action. 

God's creative power does not, in fact, fashion us as though 
out of soft clay. It is a fire that kindles life in whatever it touches, 
a quickening spirit. Therefore it is by living that we must de- 
cisively adapt ourselves to it, model ourselves upon it, identifying 
ourselves with it. The mystic is given at times a keen, obsessive, 
insight into this situation. 

In the milieu of higher energy within which beings move, he 
then sees the free natures of men as independent nuclei, ««- 
absorbed, with the power partly to isolate themselves from the 
divine forces that flow around them and lay siege to them. These 
nuclei, can, if they wish, insulate themselves against the radiation 
that seeks to penetrate and guide them. They can also, if they 
have received the light, resist its transfiguring action, or again, 
monopolizing it in their selfishness, allow its shadow to fall 
behind them. 22 

81 Cf. Le Milieu Divin, pp. 62-3, Fontana, pp. 83-4, Our struggle with God 
against evil. 
M To bring out the importance of individual freedom of choice and the 

134 Writings in Time of War 

Any one who has die mystic's insight, and who loves, will feel 
within himself a fever of active dependence and arduous purity 
seizing upon him and driving him on to an absolute integrity and 
the utilization of all his powers. Such a man is pledged, in virtue 
of his inner vision, to an endless task of self-correction and self- 
development that exercises a delectable tyranny over his life. He 
can never rest so long as there remains the least discord between 
the vibration of his own being and that of the divine milieu: and 
yet how can one conceive that such an ideal harmony can ever be 

In order to become perfectly resonant to the pulsations of the 
basic rhythm of reality, the mystic makes himself docile to the 
least hint of human obligation, the most unobtrusive demands of 

To win for himself a little more of the creative energy, he 
tirelessly develops his thought, dilates his heart, intensifies his 
external activity. For created beings must work if they would be 
yet further created. 

And finally, that no blemish may separate him, by so much as 
a single atom of himself, from the essential limpidity, he labours 
unceasingly to purify his affections and to remove even the very 
faintest opacities which might cloud or impede the light. 23 

What the soul has to attain, in fact, is not an annihilation of self 
that causes its own personal being to disappear, but an identifica- 
tion that will fulfil its being; and it is in order to do this that it 

necessity of the option to be made by every man, was always to remain a 
leading clement in Tcilhard's thought. In this we can see the influence of his 
reading of Maurice Blondcl's V Action. 

23 On purity of heart, sec The Struggle against the Multitude, above. Letter of 
13 Nov. 191 8: 'One can only be terrified at the crying need for purity the 
universe suffers from, and almost be beside oneself with longing to do some- 
thing to supply it*. (Making of a Mind, p. 252.) 8 December: 'You know what 
is my dearest wish: that God, through Our Lady, may grant us so to share in 
her purity that we may really be able to serve, in our own small way, to 
regenerate the world.' (Ibid, p. 262.) The themes of purity and option are 
combined in a letter of 1 Feb. 191 7: 'May our Lord make each of us a purifying 
leaven, in this universal, age-old, operation by which mankind is so mysteri- 
ously divided, through the activity of the Child-God, into the chosen and the 
rejected!' (Making of a Mind, p. 178.) 

The Mystical Milieu 135 

must not, in any part of itself, in its texture, or in its motions, be 
distinguishable from the clear and vibrant milieu into which it 

As yet, the disappearance is not complete. The contours can 
still just be made out. A slight tremor betrays the imperfection 
of the union. 

There must be still more perfect obedience. 

The heart must open still more generously. 

Purity must be still more intense. 

There are no limits to this communion of an activity that 
strives to approach the perfection of its first principle: no limits 
to the right ordering of disposition, to the docility of the will, to 
the candour of mind and heart. 

The mystic finds a joy no words can describe in feeling that 
through this active obedience (which is a very different thing 
from the passive acceptance that first satisfied him) he endlessly 
adheres more closely to the encompassing Godhead. Endlessly, die 
more perfect an instrument he becomes, the more does he become 
one with the creative Act. A little more, it would seem, and God, 
finding no resistance to his guidance in accordance with his 
designs, would no longer be able to distinguish the tool from his 
own almighty hand. 

The truth is that the mystic is no longer much concerned with 
docility of will, or greater natural enrichment, or purity of soul, 
in themselves. He is completely absorbed for the moment in the 
idea of forming one with the universal Godhead. This attitude 
characterizes the first great cycle of his vision, which is on the 
point of reaching its conclusion. 

Ever since he first discovered the mystical milieu in the halo of 
an intense emotion or in the magnification of an infinitely precious 
object of love, the seer has constantly seen all around him the 
development of an irrepressible homogeneity, in the depth of 
which superficial differences lose their sharpness. Once the 
mystic has reached this stage of his development, then, whatever 
he experiences, whatever action he carries through, wherever he 
goes, he never quits the same sublime and unchanging atmosphere 
that in all circumstances surrounds and dominates him. Whatever 
he does and wherever he is, he lives in a sort of higher dream in 

136 Writings in Time of War 

which the distinctions of practical life seem of minor importance 
and are blurred. Even though, in order to foster his vision, he is 
obliged to develop a vigorous perception of the immediate 
realities of life, he feels that their value is diminishing, and they 
tend to lose their importance for him. 

This is the Cycle of the Homogeneous. 

A further, complementary, phase is now imminent; in the 
course of this the uniform and supremely consistent principle of 
the universe will show itself capable of penetrating beings and 
'absolutizing* them without either affecting their individual 
contrasts or suffering any change itself. 

So we come to the threshold of the Cycle of the Heterogeneous. 2 * 

d: the circle of spirit 

The force that had been drawing the mystic towards the zone 
in which all things are fused together, now reverses its direction 
and brings him back to an exact examination of the experiential 
Multiple, from the moment he realizes that the higher element in 
which he longs to lose himself is not only the beatifying term of 
human activity but also, to some extent, its product. 

Hitherto, he had hardly been able to distinguish, in the cosmic 
Godhead, anything more than a sort of unchanging Entity, and 
what mattered to him was to make as close as possible a contact 
with it. What he saw in the Creative Act, for example, to the 
almost complete exclusion of created things, was the creative 
energy which he felt flowing like sap into his life. In short, the 
movement of life was reduced, for him, to the opposition between 
two invariables — later to be followed by their almost complete con- 
junction — his own being and God, both in process of reaching 
unity through the surface contact provided by tangible things. 

24 In this we see the dialectical character of the development. In the first 
three circles (Presence, Consistence, Energy) the mystic was still confined to 
the 'cycle of the homogeneous', within which he could speak of Yorming 
one with the universal Godhead': that, however, was still a sort of 'higher 

The Mystical Milieu 137 

It was an incomplete view, sadly coloured by dualism, by an 
inability to enter into things and see their inner dynamism. 

As soon as the light grows a little more brilliant, the seat of all 
action and communion will be revealed to the seer as being 
situated neither in the divine sphere nor in the created stratum, 
both properly so called, but in a special reality born of their 
mutual interaction. The mystical milieu is not a completed zone in 
which beings, once they have succeeded in entering it, remain 
immobilized. It is a complex element, made up of divinized 
created being, in which, as time goes on, the immortal distillation 
of the universe is gradually assembled. We cannot give it pre- 
cisely the name of God : it is his Kingdom. Nor can we say that 
it is: it is in process of becoming. 

As a result of this new insight the mystic is reinvigorated by the 
infusion into him of a life that had hitherto been somewhat alien 
to his soul. Now that man's labour interests him not simply as an 
operation that brings union with the divine act, but as a work 
(opus) which is a condition for the presence of God among us, 25 
it becomes possible for him not only to feel the divine milieu but 
to form it, and to allow it to encompass him like a continually 
stronger light. Now that, in order to adhere to God, it is not 
enough for him to lend himself to purely operative action, but to 
action aimed at achievement, he has no difficulty, in his mystical 
drive, in making his own that insatiable ardour which gives the 
children of earth their passion for progress. While he was 
passing through the lower circles of his initiation, space, and 
matter, and energy, were each in turn divinized in his eyes. Now 
it is the turn of evolution. 

1. The Light that Inspires the Battle. The first necessity is the 
liberation of Spirit. 

Spirit is the goal towards which nature's age-long labours are 
directed. Everything that lives (and that may well mean every- 
thing that moves) is driven, from its very beginning, by an urge 
towards a little more freedom, a little more power, more truth. 

25 Pere Teilhard was often to bring out, in various forms, this distinction 
between operatio and opus, though never emphasizing one at the expense of 
the other. Cf. the whole of the first part of Le Milieu Divin, etc. 

138 Writings in Time of War 

Vaguely at first, and later with fuller consciousness of what it 
wants and what it lacks, each monad presses on towards the areas 
in which thought sheds its light. 

We often ask ourselves the agonizing question, what force can 
be expected to keep in one common orbit, untiringly and without 
any disorder, the countless numbers of individuals who pass 
through life without making a success of it and without under- 
standing what it means. What, then, is the driving force that 
insistently urges into the struggle so many wretched, unconscious 
living beings who seem to be attached to the earth by no appetite, 
no interest, and no useful purpose? Why should we, too, exhaust 
ourselves in an effort to succeed and acquire knowledge? Would 
not a relaxation of effort still give us enough to do for the moment 
and enable us to be happy? 

The mystic, however, can see the profound and hallowed 
reason for his insatiable activity, for man's unswerving impulse 
towards the elusive Something that shines ahead of him. Through- 
out time, a task greater than individual lives is being achieved. An 
interest higher than individual successes is at stake. Spirit is 
coming to birth, the created foundation of the mystical milieu, 
the cosmic substance into which the Godhead among us is finally 
and for ever to be condensed. God, as he spiritualizes die world, 
is in process of penetrating it. A creative restlessness is stirring up 
the monads: such is the significance that the seer (particularly if 
he is a Christian) reads into the mysterious summons to perfect 
man and the enthralling hopes it raises; and such the intuition 
that gives him the nervous resilience of die conqueror. 

Then it is really true, Lord? By helping on the spread of 
science and freedom, I can increase the density of the divine 
atmosphere, in itself as well as for me: that atmosphere in which 
it is always my one desire to be immersed. By laying hold of the 
Earth I enable myself to cling closely to you. What joy then 
possesses my mind, with what joy my heart expands ! The 
hunter s instinct, which ever since my childhood sent me un- 
remittingly in pursuit of things, never the same, which never led 
me to the goal I sought — that, I now see, is both justified and 

May the kingdom of matter, then, under our scrutinies and our 

The Mystical Milieu 139 

manipulations, surrender to us the secrets of its texture, its move- 
ments, its history. 

May the world's energies, mastered by us, bow down before 
us and accept the yoke of our power. 

May the race of men, grown to fuller consciousness and 
greater strength, become grouped into rich and happy organisms 
in which life shall be put to better use and bring in a hundredfold 

May the universe offer to our gaze the symbols and forms of all 
harmony and all beauty. 

I must search, and I must find. 

What is at stake is not my own satisfaction, nor my own well- 
being, nor even only my own life. 

It is the survival and development of universal Spirit — of the 
Spirit which is not yet fully formed, nor yet assured of total 
success, but whose movement towards an ever greater degree of 
spirituality perseveres without slackening, of the Spirit that is 
quickened by the constant traffic of men's needs and their uncer- 

It is the element, Lord, wherein you will to dwell here on 

What is at stake is your existence among us. 

In the very first place, the perception of God present in all 
things presupposed in the mystic an intense zest for the Real. 

A little later, adherence to God active in all things, forced him 
to develop as wide a consciousness as possible, again of the Real 

And now that he is making his way farther into the immanent 
God, he is tied, as a person, to an unremitting fulfilment, once 
again of the Real. 

And this can mean only one thing, that man finds himself 
inexorably forced, by his passion for union with God, to give 
things their highest possible degree of reality, whether it be in his 
knowledge of them and his love for them, or in their proper 

Lost though he is in his dream, the mystic is still a supreme 

26 Cf. letter of 10 June 1917: 'I'm tending to give still more prominence to 
the realism by which mysticism lives, and also to analyse more clearly the 

140 Writings in Time of War 

The mystic is not, as some accuse him of being, a renegade or 
deserter, who does not share the earth's agonies nor its raptures. 
He, too, for all the infallibility of the dogmas he holds and the 
promises of paradise he has received, knows that he must fight to 
keep what he holds, and that he must seek if he is not to lose. He, 
too, even in his mystical domain, must work if he is to live; and 
he, too — he or others — may well die if his efforts go astray. 

Here we meet a great mystery, but one that is constantly con- 
firmed by experience: truth, even revealed truth, can be preserved 
only by being continually enlarged; or, if there are some minds 
that are excused that effort either because of their isolation or 
their exceptional simplicity, it is because others, close to them, 
take over in their place the task (indispensable even for believers 
if they wish to maintain their faith) of unremittingly clearing the 
road to thought and Life. 

In his love for the Divine, which he sees welling up on all 
sides with each new advance effected by nature, the mystic flings 
himself with enthusiasm into the battle for the Light. It is agony 
to him to have his vision restricted. When evil fights back or 
lies across his path, he suffers torments. On the other hand, when 
the battle is won, he savours the heady brew poured out for its 
most faithful exponents by the doctrine of might. His vision does 
not prevent him from being fundamentally human; nevertheless, 
in addition to a more exalted motive for his desires, it provides 
him with a wonderful supplement for the inadequacy that con- 
stantly saddens human activity. Alone among men, the mystic is 
certain that the least of his labours is a Kifj/ui els ael, 27 effective 
and enduring. For the mystic works within God. 

One day, I remember, I could find no words in which to 
express the affirmation in which my life sought to be embodied. 
The wind carried off, or men's ears were deaf to, half of what I 
was able to say; and the rest, no one understood. 

alternating movement that carries the soul away from (and in turn drives 
it back to) the Divine Milieu, homogeneous and essential, the vehicle being 
the particular determined forms of the real that we have to know and love 
and fulfil* (Making of a Mind, p. 195). 
27 An enduring possession. 

The Mystical Milieu 141 

It was then that I felt that all of us, all the many millions of us, 
crushed to suffocation on the surface of the earth, live here 
below, in the misery of being strangers to one another. The 
network of acts, and sounds, written or spoken, that links us 
together is crude and lifeless. It moulds us in only a rough and 
ready way, and it cannot faithfully transmit nor preserve our 
image. Nature is a bungler. 

In the field in which Spirit ripens, when frost and hail have 
ruined the finest shoots and the plumpest ears, she still leaves 
trailing on the ground, after the harvest, a rich crop of energy 
and good will. 

At that moment, I cursed progress. And in my disappoint- 
ment I dreamed of a common centre into which all things would 
drive the most vital roots of their sensibility and energy; a 
universal Centre, living and benign, that would itself reinforce 
our desire to do what is right, when we are at a loss to express it, 
or preserve it, or realize it. 

No being in the world could be deaf to or could reject the 
words which this infinitely sensitive milieu seeks to hear and 
transmit, for they would echo deep within every created being, 
mingled with life's imperative demands. 

No untoward accident could destroy the seed that this in- 
finitely conserving milieu had resolved to preserve and make use 
of. In its own time and place that seed would germinate, to 
bring joy to the spirit that conceived it. 

Such was the dream that consoled my baffled longing for 

It was then, Lord, that you offered my aspirations and my 
efforts the inner shelter of the divine Essence, so mysteriously 
incorporated in our universe, and that you said to me, 1 am at 

'I am at hand, at the common heart of your own being and of 
all things, to welcome even the wildest of your longings and to 
assure you that not one single fragment of what is useful in them 
will be lost to God. 

1 am at hand, changeless from generation to generation, ready 
to save for those who are to come the treasure that would other- 
wise be lost today, but which the future will inherit. One day I 

142 Writings in Time of War 

shall pass on to another, whose name I know, the thought that is 
in your mind. And when that man speaks and is heard, it is your 
voice that will be listened to. Do you yourself know from whom 
came die idea that excites you and which you cherish as though 
it were your own? 

'It is I who am the true bond that holds the World to- 
gether. Without me, even though beings may seem to make 
contact with one another, they are divided by an abyss. In me, 
they meet, in spite of the chaos of time and space. 28 

'I am at hand to fructify and ease your labours. 

'But above all, I am at hand to take over your work and con- 
summate it. 

'You have fought long enough that the world may be divinized. 
It is for me now to force open the gates of Spirit. 

'Stand aside f 

2. The Fire that Comes Down upon Earth. 29 Anyone who observes, 
simply as a scientist, the progress of natural evolution, often 
forms the impression that the part to be attributed in it to in- 
dividual spontaneous actions is extremely limited. When one 
sees how living beings organize themselves, one would say that 
their role is confined to obediently following a particular direction 
inside die field of influence of an outside force that runs through 
them and builds up their structure. Individuals seem to submit 
to life much more than sustain and extend it. 

This impression becomes the expression of an exact reality 
when the mystic passes from the domain of the natural liberation 
of Spirit by work into that of its divinization by grace, and finds 
in supematuralized being the final and permanent atmosphere 

548 Cf. Ferdinand Prat, La tUologk ie St Paul (38th imp., vol. 1, p. 349) : For 
St Paul, 'without Christ, all created tilings would be dispersed and fragmented 
and, in mutual conflict, would once again fall back into nothingness. It is 
Christ who maintains them not only in existence but in cohesion and 

20 The fire-theme recurs in The Priest (191 8) and in a much fuller form in 
The Mass on the World (1923, in Hymn of the Universe). See also the correspon- 
dence with Maurice Blondel in Dec. 19 19, {Archives de philosophic, vol. 24, 1961, 
pp. 1 5 1-6). Letter of 30 May 1925: 'Pray that, come what may, I never let 
myself wish for anything but The Fire*, and above, p. 128. 

The Mystical Milieu 143 

(half divine, half natural) in which he seeks to be enveloped, and 
which he himself can continually develop more fully. 

The divine operation reigns in absolute sovereignty over the 
domain of sanctity. 

For the seer with mystical insight into this zone of the Real, 
everything is ablaze. The universe has once more burst into 

At this stage, however, the initiate is not solely concerned, as 
he was in the circle of energy, with hastening to the blaze and 
losing himself in it while still remaining himself; the time has come 
when the created being's own substance, under the mastering 
influence of God, must become a constitutive element of the 
regenerated universe. What seeks to be effected is more than a 
simple union; it is a transformation, in the course of which die only 
thing our human activity can do is, humbly, to make ourselves 
ready, and to accept. 

Fold your wings, my soul, those wings you had spread wide 
to soar to the terrestrial peaks where the light is most ardent. It is 
for you simply to await the descent of the Fire — supposing it to 
be willing to take possession of you. 

If you are to attract its power to yourself, you must first 
loosen the bonds of affection which still tie you to objects 
cherished too exclusively for their own sake. The true union that 
you ought to seek with creatures that attract you is to be found 
not by going directly to them but by converging with them on 
God, sought in and through them. It is not by making them- 
selves more material, relying solely on physical contacts, but by 
making themselves more spiritual in the embrace of God, that 
things draw closer to each odier and, following their invincible 
natural bent, end by becoming, all of them together, one. 
Therefore, my soul, be chaste. 

And when you have thus relieved your being of its burden of 
crude accretions, you must loosen yet further the fibres of your 
substance. In your excessive self-love you are like a molecule 
closed in upon itself and incapable of entering easily into any new 
combination. God looks to you to be more open and more 
pliant. If you are to enter into him you need to be freer and more 
eager. Have done, then, with your egoism and your fear of 

144 Writings in Time of War 

suffering. Love others as you love yourself, that is to say admit 
them into yourself, all of them, even those whom, if you were a 
pagan, you would exclude. Accept pain. Take up your cross, my 

. . . And now the Fire is with us: it has come down, as though 
upon a burnt-offering. Now the mystic has ceased to be only 
himself. Body and soul, he has become a fragment of the divine. 
Henceforth, as though through a sacred door opening on to the 
universe, God passes through him and spreads his radiance. 

Seeing the mystic immobile, crucified or rapt in prayer, some 
may perhaps think that his activity is in abeyance or has left this 
earth: they are mistaken. Nothing in the world is more intensely 
alive and active than purity and prayer, which hang like an un- 
moving light between the universe and God. Through their 
serene transparency flow the waves of creative power charged 
with natural virtue and with grace. What else but this is the 
Virgin Mary? 30 

There was a time when, in his eagerness to accept the domina- 
tion of God, the mystic found himself forced into action. Now, 
the process is reversed and the very excess of his desire for action 
weds him to a passivity of a higher order. Through seeking to 
possess and thoroughly cultivate the world (that so he may feel 
the presence of God), he has become an ascetic and a contem- 
plative. Through seeking the development of his own nature he 
has found the rapture of feeling that suffering is dissolving his 
being, drop by drop, and replacing it by God. Through loving 
life, he has come to wish for death, since death alone can destroy 
his egoism so radically as to enable him to be absorbed in Christ. 

So, for the third time, we cry again, Io triumpe! 

e: the circle of person 

We have seen the mystical milieu gradually develop and assume 
a form at once divine and human. 

80 The same idea recurs in Le Milieu Divin, p. 134. See also, in connection 
with the Immaculate Conception, letter of 5 Dec. 1916, in Making of a Mind, 
p. 149. 

The Mystical Milieu 145 

At first, wc might have mistaken it for a mere projection of our 
emotions, their excess flowing out over the world and appearing 
to animate it. 

Soon, however, its autonomy became apparent as a strange and 
supremely desirable Omnipresence. This universal presence 
began by drawing into itself all consistence and all energy. Later, 
embodied in the great wind of purification and conquest that 
excites man at every stage in his history, it drew us into itself— so 
fully as to assimilate us to its own nature. 

Sometimes, when I have scrutinized the world very closely, I 
have thought that I could see it enveloped in an atmosphere — 
still very tenuous but already individualized — of mutual good will 
and of truths accepted in common and retained as a permanent 
heritage. I have seen a shadow floating, as though it were the 
wraith of a universal soul seeking to be born. 

What name can we give to this mysterious Entity, who is in 
some small way our own handiwork, with whom, eminently, 
we can enter into communion, and who is some part of our- 
selves, yet who masters us, has need of us in order to exist, and at 
the same time dominates us with the full force of his Absolute 

I can feel it: he has a name and a face, but he alone can reveal 
his face and pronounce his name: 31 

Jesus ! 32 

The movement that first opened my eyes began at one point, in 
a person: my own person. As my powers of perception were 
aroused, that point expanded as though it would absorb all 
things. Very soon, however, it found that the process seemed to 
be reversed and that it was itself being taken over. Together with 

81 The idea of personal being was to play an increasingly important in the 
presentation of Pere Teilhard s thought. It remained, however, entirely a 
matter of presentation. The idea itself already dominated his thought at this 

32 The repetition of the refrain 'Jesus' in this final prayer will be noted. 
Pere Teilhard deliberately used the name 'Jesus' rather than, for example, 
'Christ', as having a more personally evocative force, and because it gives 
the prayer a more intimate tone. See above, the final prayer in Cosmic Life 
(pp. 69-70). 

146 Writings in Time of War 

all the beings around me I felt that I was caught up in a higher 
movement that was stirring together all the elements of die 
universe and grouping them in a new order. When it was given 
to me to see where the dazzling trail of particular beauties and 
partial harmonies was leading, I recognized that it w r as all coming 
to centre on a single point, on a Person: your Person: 
Jesus ! 

In his superabundant unity, that Person possessed the virtue 
of each one of the lower mystical circles. His presence im- 
pregnated and sustained all things. His power animated all 
energy. His mastering life ate into every other life, to assimilate 
it to himself. Thus, Lord, I understood that it was possible to live 
without ever emerging from You, without ever ceasing to be 
buried in You, the Ocean of Life, the life that penetrates and 
quickens us. Since first, Lord, you said, 'Hoc est corpus meum\ 
not only the bread of die altar but (to some degree) everything in 
the universe that nourishes the soul for the life of Spirit and 
Grace, has become yours and has become divine — it is divinized, 
divinizing, and divinizable. Every presence makes me feel that 
you are near me; every touch is the touch of your hand; every 
necessity transmits to me a pulsation of your will. And so true is 
this, that everything around me that is essential and enduring has 
become for me the dominance and, in some way, the substance 
of your heart: 

Jesus ! 

That is why it is impossible for me, Lord — impossible for any 
man who has acquired even the smallest understanding of you — 
to look on your face without seeing in it the radiance of every 
reality and every goodness. In the mystery of your mystical body 
— your cosmic body — you sought to feel the echo of every joy 
and every fear that moves each single one of all the countless cells 
that make up mankind. And correspondingly, we cannot con- 
template you and adhere to you without your Being, for all its 
supreme simplicity, transmuting itself as we grasp it into the re- 
structured Multitude of all that you love upon earth: 


The Mystical Milieu 147 

And the result of this astonishing synthesis of all perfection and 
all growth that you effect in yourself, is that the act by which I 
possess you combines, in its strict simplicity, more attitudes and 
more insights than I have spoken of here, and more than I could 
ever express. When I think of you, Lord, I cannot say whether 
it is in this place that I find you more, or in that place — whether 
you are to me Friend or Strength or Matter — whether I am con- 
templating you or whether I am suffering — whether I rue my 
faults or find union — whether it is you I love or the whole sum 
of others. Every affection, every desire, every possession, every 
light, every depth, every harmony, and every ardour glitters with 
equal brilliance, at one and the same time, in the inexpressible 
Relationship that is being set up between me and you: 



The experiences described in this essay are only an introduction to 
mysticism. Beyond the point at which I have stopped, the being 
in whom the higher cosmic milieu is completely personified, 
reveals, as and when he wills, the beauties of his countenance and 
heart. There are infinite degrees in the loving initiation of one 
person into another unfathomable Person. 

I am not qualified to describe those sublime states. 33 All I have 
tried to do is to bring out their natural roots. 

33 We use the word 'mystical' in a number of very different meanings. 
Pere Teilhard has here been trying, in the first place, to distinguish the root 
meaning common to them all: the natural sense that everyone, if he has the 
power of self-analysis, finds in himself, in degrees and under aspects that vary 
very widely, of an opening-out of his self onto the universe, onto the common 
basis— infinite, it would seem, to him — or the common source that he senses 
in it and which is accordingly 'mysterious' to him. The mystical sense, there- 
fore, as the common origin of the words suggests, is the sense of the 'mystery' 
contained in everything (which is a mystery of unity). 

There are, however, many degrees in the mystery: (a) that of the universe, 
for our natural reason; (b) that of the first source and the final end which reason 
postulates for the universe, beyond it; (c) the mystery again — for the Christian 
— that the Revelation of the one God in three persons opens up for him in 
faith; (d) finally, the mystery that God sometimes grants to the 'mystic' of 

148 Writings in Time of War 

Of course, all who are admitted to the vision of Christ will not 
go through the different phases in the order I have described; but 
if they analyse their passion for the divine, they will see that they 
have proceeded through the circles, and that their love lies at the 
centre. In particular, they will recognize the role of the created 
thing in the sharpening of sensibility, which gives the warmth 
that Charity calls for, and the vast cosmic realities that give God 
his tangible and palpable being here below. Amictus (mundo) 
sicut vestimento — clothed (in the world) as in a garment. No one, 
I think, will understand the great mystics — St Francis, and 
Blessed Angela, and the others — unless he understands the full 
depth of the truth that Jesus must be loved as a world. 

Moreover, from the humblest dawn of mystical thought, God 
is seen to be the only being that can maintain and direct it. 
Although, no doubt, we can by artificial means find some ways 
of briefly stimulating it, the zest for life y which is the source of all 
passion and all insight, even divine, does not come to us from 
ourselves. We are incapable of modifying those primordial 
depths of ourselves from which springs the force that animates 
us. All we can do is to accept ourselves as we are. It is God who 
has to give us the impulse of wanting him. And when the soul feels 
itself on fire for heaven, it still cannot, by itself, see what it lacks. 
It will see God only if God turns his face towards it: and a man 

whom we speak in our 'mystical theology', in passive contemplation (the 
contemplation of which St Teresa of Avila describes a typical series of stages 
in her Interior Castle). 

Starting in this essay from the first of these meanings and proceeding to dis- 
close the second, Pere Teilhard moves on, as a believer — and more markedly 
so towards the end of each of his 'circles' — to the third, that of Christian 
revelation. Here, in conclusion, he expresses his admiration for those mystical 
states which he says he is 'not qualified' to describe, but whose position he 
determines with great correctness. 

The mystical milieu — which reappears later as the divine milieu, in a treatment 
that is more concerned with its spiritual nature than its natural roots — connotes 
essentially the 'bond' of that interaction, that personal dialogue between God 
and his creature, in which the creative action and the initiative of divine grace 
are constantly paramount, and constitute, for our natural action and our 
response to the divine summons, the ambience or 'milieu' in which we live, 
and move and have our being— of which St Paul first spoke, in his address to 
the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:28). 

The Mystical Milieu 149 

cannot even force another man to do that. And when, finally, 
the soul has distinguished the burning centre which has been 
seeking for it, it is powerless to follow up the ray of light that has 
fallen on it, and cast itself into the source. For it is written: 'No 
one can come to me unless I take him and draw him into myself. 
Mystical bliss is consummated in the consciousness of this 
gratuitous act, in other words of this supreme dependence upon 

Qui potest capere, capiat. 
Beaulieu-les-Fontaines 9 Oise. 13 August igiy 

Creative Union 

Pere Teilhard himself tells us that this essay was not written for 
publication, but to provide a basis for discussion of his ideas, expressed 
in metaphysical terms, with official censors at some future date. He 
wrote from the front ('Making of a Mind 9 , p. 209) to his cousin 
Marguerite Teillard-Chambon: 

'8 October 1917: When I get back down the line, if God spares my 
life, I have almost made up my mind to make a start on an essay in 
philosophical synthesis (you 11 smile to hear this ambitious plan) called 
'Creative Union . I think this essential if I am to make myself under- 
stood by those before whom I shall sooner or later have to defend or 
justify my ideas 9 . 

Creative Union was finished on November 10th. 

A year later, on 3 October 1918, he writes: 'From the "thinking" 
point of view, I 9 m hoping to get down in a few paragraphs, as an 
appendix to 'Creative Union , the various new points that have taken 
definite shape or defined themselves in my mind during the last year — 
for my own benefit, of course, and with an eye to future critics — and not 
for general publication . 

However, as he writes on 11 October 1918, he abandoned this plan: 

'In any case, I've given up for the moment the appendix to 'Creative 
Union about which I wrote to you. There would be too much to say; 
Vd rather wait until some new central aspect emerges from the various 

Moreover, this attempt, by a thinker who felt so compelled to 
'picture* things to himself, to transpose to the metaphysical plane a 
concept derived from the 'physical 9 plane (in the old sense of 'natural 
philosophy) does not seem very happy. It is more a transposition into 
different language than a real transposition, and the idea it gives of the 
act of creation, transcendent and impatient of representation, cannot 
easily be reconciled with the Catholic dogma of creation ex nihilo. 

Pere Teilhard realized this; and in the years that followed he 

152 Writings in Time of War 

often returned to the theme, trying to find a way of expressing it whose 
orthodoxy would he less questionable. In the end he abandoned this 
metaphysical enquiry, feeling that the bent of his mind did not lend 
itself to it. (At the same time he continued to be interested in the 
problem, as we know from passages in 'Comment je vols' in 1948 and 
'Contingence de YUnivers etgout humain de survivre in 1953) 

Thus, on 25 April 1918 he notes, in connexion with his idea that to 
be is to be united (esse= uniri) : 

* The definition esse= uniri would, it seems to me, be philosophically 
defensible. In any case it has the merit of being a fruitful definition and 
of being without doubt the law that governs the progress of being. Even 
if it is metaphysically questionable it has an undeniable practical value 
(as applied to growth: crescere= uniri)'. Again, on 3 October 1918: 
'I must draw up, as an appendix to 'Creative Union , a summary of 
the new points I have established or developed during the last year. 
They seem to me principally the following: 1. An expulsive creative 
phase, necessary, perhaps, in order to base union upon a distinct 
efficient force . . . The origin of the Multiple would then have to be 
sought not in a sort ^opposition (an organic reflex) but in a more 
contingent act 9 . 

And on 10 November 1918: ' "Creative Union" tended to reduce 
everything to a mechanics of union. There must, without doubt, be an 
expulsive phase: 

(a) either per modum alicujus oppositions organicae, 

(b) or . . . efBcientiae.' 

Again, on 13 January 1919, he adds: 'If the expression is found more 
orthodox, instead of "union creates (creation=a sort of union) 99 , we 
may say "creation unites 99 (Deus creat uniendo).' 

In the 'Mon Univers 9 of 1924 (not to be confused with the essay of 
1918, under the same title) he returns to the problem, and indicates more 
exactly how far his theory extends. 

' "Creative Union 99 is not precisely a metaphysical doctrine. It is 
much more a sort of empirical and pragmatic explanation of the universe; 
I developed it to meet the need to reconcile, in a solidly coherent system, 
scientific views on evolution (now definitely accepted in their essence) 
with the innate tendency that urges me on to seek the divine, not by 
breaking away from the physical world, but through matter and, in some 
way, in union with it 9 . 


I am proposing here to return to and set out systematically a 
number of ideas that will be found scattered throughout various 
essays I have written since January 1916 (in particular in The 
Struggle against the Multitude). I have, in fact, come to realize that 
these ideas only need to be brought together, to form a synthesis 
which constitutes 'a point of view from which to look at everything 9 . 
I am anxious to establish this point of view more accurately, so 
that it may be critically examined, and made use of if it is thought 
worth while. As we all know, the conclusive force of a system 
lies much more iii its capacity to explain (that is to say, to give 
unity to) the intelligible Real than in the proofs that can be given 
of its parts in isolation and, still more, of its fundamental basis — 
which latter is a postulate. I shall proceed, accordingly, much 
more by exposition than by discussion. A 'point of view' can be 
adopted and verified: it cannot be demonstrably proved. 

The logic of the system, it will be seen, obliges me to put 
forward a number of paradoxical propositions: on the nature, for 
example, of Spirit, of non-being, of the future, etc. I do not 
think that these paradoxes are an indication that the theory I am 
offering is wrong. Completely lucid and 'orthodox' 1 syntheses 
are necessarily sterile and false by omission. On the other hand, 
certain obscurities or oddities that the Real forces upon our notice 
represent that unexplored but fruitful part of it from which 
further mental constructions will be developed. It is infinitely 
preferable to offer, provisionally, a mixture of truth and error than 
to mutilate reality by trying prematurely to separate the wheat 
from the tares. I have had no hesitation in following that Gospel 
precept, which applies equally to all intellectual enquiry and 
scientific progress. 

1 1 am speaking primarily, it will be appreciated, of Scholastic orthodoxy. 
(Note by Pere Teifliard.) 

154- Writings in Time of War 

a: the synthetic (composite) nature of spirit 

I accept, in the first place, as a presupposition to all that follows, 
that the universe is committed to a Becoming, which gradually 
constitutes it in its destined form, the most perfect elements of 
the wodd being produced in succession through the less per- 
fect, starting from lower states of existence. No postulate seems 
to me to be based on a wider area of experience or on more 
exact critical examination — and none more certain, accordingly, 
still to be accepted by the scientists and philosophers of tomorrow 
— than that of evolution. And I am resolutely adopting it. 

Secondly, I accept that the evolution of the universe has an 
absolute direction, which is towards Spirit. This second postulate, 
like the first, is derived from inferences and inductions too ex- 
tensive to be considered in detail here. I shall confine myself to 
saying that, both a priori and a posteriori, the progressive spirituali- 
zation of conscious being is manifestly the only variable charac- 
teristic (the only parameter) that enables us to follow, both in 
direction and in height, the essential curve of Becoming through 
the labyrinth of individual evolution. It is refinement of psychism 
that determines the true, absolute, position of the monads in the 
ascending series of beings. 

From this twofold fundamental postulate (the reality of an 
evolution, and the primacy of Spirit) it follows immediately that: 
to explain the shape of the world means to explain the genesis of Spirit. 
It is the secret of this genesis that the theory of creative union 
seeks to elucidate. 

The originality of this theory consists in looking for the 
solution to the problem of Spirit in what is generally considered 
its most difficult aspect, which is the connexion between thought 
and the multiple and material. 

It has always been noted that the organic characteristic of 
Spirit is that it appears coincidentally with, and in connexion 
with, a supremely complicated physical equipment. From the 
constitution of his protoplasm to his muscular and nervous tissue, 
the most spiritual being known to science — Man — is«at the same 

Creative Union 155 

time the being that is made up of the greatest number of parts. 
We may say that in our world psychic perfection varies in 
inverse 2 ratio with organic complexity and instability. 

Materialists have seen in this remarkable contrast between the 
spirituality of the soul and the fragility of the organism a proof 
that thought is a subsidiary cosmic element, an epiphenomenon. 

Philosophers of the Spirit, for their part, have resolutely main- 
tained the essential dual reality (a reality at once supremely simple 
and supremely complicated) of the two principles which are 
coupled together in die rational being; they have never tried, 
however, to explain this surprising, and constant, association. 

1 hope to fill the gap between the two by accepting that the 
essential connexion found, in this world, between the spiritual and 
the multiple is not an insoluble philosophical riddle: on the con- 
trary, it discloses to us the fundamental constitution of Spirit, 
from which that connexion is quite simply derived. The process 
is as follows: 

Initially, we must see the formative energy of the world as 
grappling with an infinite tendency to crumble into dust, with a 
thing that is by its nature (and hence by its general trend) infin- 
itely dissociated, a sort of pure multiple. The problem and the 
secret of creation consisted in reducing this power of dissociation 
and reversing its direction, in such a way as to produce pro- 
gressively more synthesized monads. The more intimate the 
union effected between more diverse elements (that is, the more 
the Multitude was overcome) the more perfect and conscious the 
being that emerged. Plus esse = plus, et a pluribus, uniri. Soul, at 
all its degrees, 3 was born of this progressive concentration of the 
primordial dust. Animation is proportionate to union. 

Consciousness, of course, should not be regarded, in this 
hypothesis, as no more than the result of elementary material 
properties brought into harmony with one another. The growth 
of being, following on the mutual fertilization of the monads, 
represents the appearance in the world of something completely 
new. The union of a pleiad in a monad of a higher order calls for 
a distinct recasting, and leads to the formation of a new substance, 

2 Pere Teilhard inadvertently wrote 'inverse ratio* for 'direct ratio*. 
8 Atomic, vegetative, sensitive, rational (note by Pere Teilhard). 

1 56 Writings in Time of War 

formed on each occasion by a completely new principle of union 
(soul) enveloping an aggregation of earlier units. Ontological 
union (and the force of the adjective must be fully understood) 
is specifically creative. Creation is brought about by an act of 
uniting; and true union cannot be effected except by creating. 
These are two correlative propositions. 4 

When the advent of Spirit, properly so called, is close at hand, 
the mechanism of 'spiritualization' by union becomes easy to 
distinguish. In the higher animals, with large brains, the in- 
stability of the soul is at its greatest, because the very numerous 
elements that are constitutive of psychism are still loosely com- 
bined: the multiples from which being is born are not yet com- 
pletely knit together, and the least thing can cause them to fall 
apart; when they are dissociated, their principle of union, which 
is still itself tenuous, disappears with them. In man, on the other 
hand, the organic components succeed in centring themselves? 
and from that time a new spiritual substance appears in the world 
for the first time — the very centre of unification. In man the body 
(that is to say the ensemble of united elements) can disappear: the 
principle of his union, being strictly concentrated on one point, 
will survive the physical disappearance. As form that can be 
isolated from its matter — as a bond that can subsist with nothing 
to hold together — as a unitive force that can exist apart from the 
united whole — the human soul is incorruptible. At the same 
time it retains its solidarity with the Multitude that, genetically 
and potentially, never ceases to persist in it. Not only is the human 
soul without any doubt incompletely spiritualized (for there are 

4 This should be compared with Mon Univers (1924) : 'Creative union is the 
theory that accepts that in the present evolutionary stage of the cosmos (which 
is the only one we know) everything happens as though the One were formed 
by successive unification of the Multiple, and were the more perfect the more 
perfectly it centralized beneath itself a more extensive Multiple. For the 
elements associated in a bodv by soul . . . plus esse est cum pluribus uniri. For 
the soul itself, the principle of unity, plus esse est plus plura mire. For 
both ... it is to undergo the creative influence of God, qui creat uniendo. These 
propositions should be carefully weighed if they are not to be misinterpreted. 
They do not mean that the One is made up of the Multiple ... but that the 
One appears to us only in succession to the Multiple, dominating it, since its 
essential, formal act is to unite'. 

5 Through reflexion: man thinks that he is thinking. 

Creative Union 157 

many degrees in stability of spirit), but it continues to need 
matter as a physiological environment, one from which it can 
draw nourishment, and into which, through the medium of the 
body, it extends its roots. 

We may therefore conclude that if the most refined psychism 
coincides, in our universe, with the most complex material basis, 
then this is by structural necessity. As a result of the mechanism of 
evolution, the One, in the cycle of our creation, is born on the 
multiple; the simple is formed by giving its unity to what is 
complex; spirit is made through the medium of matter. Thus, in the 
process of becoming, organic complexity and psychic simplicity 
are not in opposition: the one, in fact, is the condition for the 
appearance of the other. There is no spiritual unity without the 
exercise of a unifying force: unum nascitur uniendo. The Multiple 
is the lower (and dispensable) side of the rational soul; and the 
soul is the point upon which Matter converges (and which can 
be detached from matter). Between the perishable souls of 
animals and man's immortal spirit, there is not exactly a hiatus: 
there is a transition from one to the other through a critical point. 
The rarefied becomes concentrated on one point, the section of 
the cone becomes the apex. We experience this ourselves in 
tangible form when we feel that we can recognize in ourselves 
that thought is transformed sense-perception. 

Whereas the Kosmos, in Bergson's creative evolution, is seen 
as a radiation that spreads out from a central source, the picture 
of the universe we are introduced to by 'Creative Union* is that 
of a concentration, a convergence, a centripetal confluence that 
originates in some infinitely distended sphere. Although both 
evolutionary, each theory is the converse of the other. 

It might appear that certain facts cannot be reconciled with this 
hypothesis of a world in process of continual concentration. The 
multiplication of living beings by reproduction, the jealously 
guarded and ever increasing autonomy of the monads, the 
divergence of animal phyla — surely all these mean not a reduction 
but a reinforcement of die Multiple? 

It is not difficult to show that while these facts appear to 
contradict the theory of creative union, they fit in with it per- 
fectly and even serve to generalize it. 

158 Writings in Time of War 

If one considers it carefully, the proliferation of living beings 
no more represents a victory for number than the multiplication 
of crystals in a solution entails a numerical increase in the material 
units suspended in the liquid. The process of the psychic con- 
centration of Matter is extended, no doubt, around each living 
being; but for the totality of things this extension represents a 
transition from a state of greater division to a lesser degree of 
fragmentation. The new multitude shows a reduction in relation 
to the former. 6 What is more, it is the condition necessary to a 
further simplification. 

Souls are mistaken, in fact, when they imagine that they are 
made for autonomy and isolation. It is clear, indeed, that the 
work of individual deepening and folding back upon the centre is 
indispensable if the monads are to be completed; but that work is 
ordered to a higher fusion of the pleiad. Individuals are called to a 
higher unification, the need for which constantly plagues them — 
and we see evidence of this in their inability to find happiness and 
to develop in isolation. The great mass of souls, therefore, is not a 
sort of dust into which Life disintegrates: their totality constitutes 
the higher matter which is destined to be made one, to be created, 
beneath a new Spirit, heralded and prepared by their multitude. 
This is determined by the law of recurrence which governs the 
formation of beings. 

It is not to be wondered at that all die roads that life tries in 
order to effect the synthesis of the Multiple are not equally 
profitable. Drawn by the same unifying force, beings choose 
different roads, some more direct, some less. Some of them come 
to grief in their attempts, or take a retrograde path. As the 
elements of Spirit make their way together towards their common 
goal, they suffer a disintegration — what one might call an un- 
ravelling — of their fibres. That is why so many phyla break away 
and give the illusion of a divergent evolution. This fragmentation 
is superficial and secondary. Basically, the whole of the world's 
psychism gravitates towards a single centre. 

6 As happens, for example, when water vapour condenses into mist or snow. 
(Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

Creative Union 159 

b: the reality of the centre on which life 

The fact that a pattern of convergence can be recognized in the 
process of universal becoming is sufficient in itself to demolish the 
Bergsonian notion of a vital impulse without any final purpose, 
of a vis a tergo. Such a dynamism, indeed, cannot but introduce 
into its principle a centre of divergence. One cannot see how it 
could produce the confluence of the elements it drives before it. 

The force that creates the world can only be a vis ah ante, a 
force of attraction: what can we say about its nature? 

(i) Is it a force completely submerged in the original Multiple, 
a loosely-knit affinity in the initial dust, in virtue of which the 
monads come into harmony purely by reciprocal action — in 
which case die centre of cosmic spiritualization would be potential 
and immanent, without actual existence or specific operation? 

(ii) Is it, on the contrary, an energy that is extra-cosmic in 
origin (even though immanent in its term), animating material 
elements ah extra and fusing them together by the influx of a 
force that is external to them — in which case the centre that 
unifies the monads is real and transcendent? 

This is, in fact, the problem of God expressed in terms of 
creative union. I propose to show that only the second alternative, 
that is to say the existence of a real and transcendent centre, is 
compatible with the mechanism of that union. 

In the first place, die intervention of a specific energy that 
unifies the cosmos would appear to be indispensable if the 
smallest degree of association of the elements of spirit is to be 
even initiated. If we are not to contradict the logic of the system 
I am explaining, we must in fact admit that within the Multiple 
there is a mutual repulsion between the parts. If we observe 
that the monads around us are animated by positive, constructive, 
affinities, this is not in virtue of their origin in the multiple. It is 
due to the synthesis adumbrated in them by creative union. In 
itself, the Multiple is incapable of associating itself in groups or of 
progressing in being — since it is a power of dispersion (annihila- 

i6o Writings in Time of War 

don). This being so, it is obviously impossible to accept the 
spurious hypothesis of a multiplicity that contains its own 
principle of unification. 

This first demonstration has the disadvantage of being a little 
bit 'up in the air* and too rigidly systematized. There is, however, 
another consideration that has the double advantage of resting 
on a wider experiential basis and of drawing its conclusive force 
from the practical demands of action at least as much as from the 
logical necessities of reason. 

The centre of universal evolution must be real — and conse- 
quently transcendent — because if it were only potential (and 
immanent) the world would have no base from which to 
function, no consistence and, in consequence, no value — a con- 
clusion that we cannot accept. Let me explain further. 

The characteristic of a convergent evolution such as we have 
accepted is that Being appears in it — if I may put it so — 'canti- 
levered': the world is without support at one end (when we look 
back, that is), since at that end it emerges from essential frag- 
mentation. It is only through their forward impetus that things 

If, in these conditions, we could conjecture that all the forces 
of the universe worked harmoniously together to produce 
Spirit; if every higher form of being appeared to emerge from 
the co-operation of all the lower forces in pursuing a determined 
curve of progress; if, in other words, the cosmos behaved like a 
gigantic organism ordered in its entirety towards the production 
of souls — in that case we would be justified in attributing to the 
world a purely immanent power of growth, and we would not 
shrink from entrusting ourselves to it. 

Experience, however, tells us, in the plainest terms, a very 
different story. In our universe, every higher form of existence 
appears within an energy that was there before but remains un- 
affected, in its totality, by the new formation it supports (organic 
life and physico-chemical forces, for example, or thought and 
organic fife). From this it follows that the most spiritualized 
substance lies open to attack from — can be misled by — the lower 
forces that it has not, as it comes into being, completely mastered. 
For example, no factor in evolution known to our experience can 

Creative Union 161 

make it clear that our human race was bound to succeed: nor is 
there any guarantee, immanent in progress, that can insure man- 
kind for the future against any irrational cataclysm. 

Faced with this radical contingence, anyone who reflects on the 
problem will find that he must choose between two alternatives: 

Either he must accept that he can find nothing in his environ- 
ment that has the least claim to be called absolute, and agree that 
wherever he looks he can see nothing but a vast concurrence of 
chances (that, however, goes against both his most fundamental 
intellectual instinct and his indestructible need to devote himself 
only to a work that will endure). 

Or, on the other hand, if he wishes to salvage from the wreck 
his faith in the value of human effort, he will try to find outside 
the world a principle of fulfilment, in other words an extrinsic 
final purpose — a providence. 

The only way out of this dilemma would be to maintain that a 
sufficiently great accumulation of contingencies can amount to a 
necessity. Since a very large number of attempts made in the 
same direction entail a certainty of success, one might say that the 
infallible success of the world (without which we cannot be in- 
tellectually or actively satisfied) results from the endless repetition 
of the Multitude's attempts to associate in groups; and this would 
relieve us of the necessity to have recourse to a directive force 
external to the world. To this I would reply that this process of 
'multiple attempts' (which has ensured many partial successes in 
the course of life's transformations) cannot be sufficient to give 
evolution the essential stability that we are all compelled to 
recognize in it even though we cannot explain it scientifically. 
The 'infallibility of large numbers' may serve, at a pinch, to 
explain the success of our human race in the past, but it cannot 
dispel our anxiety for the future. And it is that reassurance that 
matters most to us. 

Courageous, conscious, reflective, human life is impossible (by 
which I mean that it contains an intrinsic contradiction) unless 
Spirit — our Spirit — can have a guarantee of its success, and a 
promise of its future. That guarantee and that promise cannot be 
found in either the present or the future: only a power that is 
master of time and chance can give them. 

162 Writings in Time of War 

That is why the centre towards which the elements of Spirit 
gravitate, under the influence of an attractive force that animates 
them — drawing them towards a unity that is to be theirs — can 
only be a transcendent Reality. 

c: positive non-being: the quasi^-absolute 


Now that we have determined the nature of the peak of evolu- 
tion, we may turn back to its base. What sort of reality should 
we attribute to the dust upon which creative union acts? 

For a long time I thought that the increasing fragmentation 
into which things disappear when we try to trace them back 
historically (scientifically) to their source was only an appearance, 
the result of some 'form' or law of our minds. Just as we cannot 
imagine any limit to stellar or interatomic space, so we cannot 
see any absolute beginning to temporal series. We see every- 
thing around us extending into endless perspectives, because that 
is the way in which the Real breaks down under the action of our 
minds. That, I say, is the view I first accepted. 

According to this hypothesis, it is clear, the ontological order 
of creation had nothing in common with the historical order of 
evolution. God, for example, could perfectly well have created 
the world in the state it reached in die year iooo, without our 
being any the wiser. Our experience, our science, would have 
continued none the less to carry the cosmic series indefinitely back 
into the past. The world of iooo a.d. is conditioned by a network 
of antecedents, and science is concerned with discovering their 
threads, simply from the point of view of their mutual connexion, 
without prejudging their absolute reality. 

This duality of the cognitive order and the real order has since 
seemed to me arbitrary and false. We have no serious reason for 
thinking that things are not made in the same pattern as that in 
which our experience unfolds them. On the contrary, that 
pattern may very well disclose to us the fundamental texture of 

In the theory of creative union, the imponderable Multiple 

Creative Union 163 

which evolution indicates as the original state of the cosmos, must 
be considered as having had a. true, objective, absolute existence. 7 

What can we say about the nature of this primitive sub- 
stratum of Spirit? 

In the first place we should see it as an excessively impoverished 
and attenuated substance. Union, we must remember, does more 
than transform things and add to them. It produces. Every new 
union to be effected increases the absolute quantity of being 
existing in the universe. We should not, accordingly, think that 
as the principle underlying things there was some v^rj 9 without 
form but complete in its consistence. As yet there was only an 
adumbration, a shadow, of being. 

Even that is saying too much. When we speak of an adum- 
bration or a shadow we imply some positive existence, and 
nothing can be positive that has not undergone an initial influence 
of union. Before there is any unification we can speak only of the 
negative (in its real form, which is pure Multiple). As we have 
already seen, the initial subject of creation was an essential power 
of dissociation and division. The productio ex nihilo subjecti did 
not consist in forming outright an infinitesimal being (an e of 
being) destined to grow (as though the difficulty of making 
something 'out of nothing' were circumvented or conjured away) 
but in reversing the direction of this force of dispersion. If 
nascent being appears in an infinitesimal form, it is because it is 
still very close to its point of total disunity. 

I am well aware that this concept of a sort of positive non-being 
as the subject of creation raises grave difficulties. However closely 
tied to non-being we may suppose it to be, the Thing, dis- 
sociated by its nature, required for the operation of creative 
union, implies that the creator found outside himself a pur- 
chase-point, or at least a reaction. It suggests, too, that the 
creation was not completely gratuitous but represents a work of 
quasi-absolute value. All this redolet manichaeismum — smacks of 
manichaeism. 8 

7 On what follows, see introductory note to this essay. 

8 In as much as the Multiple is bound up with physical and moral evil, pain 
and sin are readily reduced to an effect of dissociation (either organic or 
deliberate), see The stmgglt against the Multitude and §F below (note by Pere 

164 Writings in Time of War 

True enough: can we, however, avoid these snags— or rather 
paradoxes — without offering explanations that are purely verbal.?* 
When we are speaking of God the truth lies between two series 
of approximations, of which one goes too far and the other falls 
short. We would without doubt present a very incomplete idea 
of the Godhead if we described it exclusively by personal attri- 
butes: some aspects of the supreme Being can be interpreted only 
in terms that I might call material and cosmic. It is the same with 
the creative act. If we try to make it too free or operating too 
much in vacuity, we may well make it unintelligible. Is there any 
reason why we should not admit that the necessary existence of 
absolute unity entails, as a secondary consequence, ad extra — 
rather as though it were its antithesis or shadow — the appearance 
at the opposite pole from being, of an infinite multiplicity? 10 
To do so, I believe, would not be in any way to belittle either 
the Maker or his work. 

d: quality and quantity 

There are two different ways of conceiving the 'dissociated 
thing* that serves as the basis of creation. One may, in the first 
place, assume that the initial Multiple is a heterogeneous, 
different throughout itself, so that its pure multiplicity is at the 
same time pure variety. The more we considered an extremely 
large segment of this thing, the more we would find in it different 
properties in an embryonic rudimentary state — in other words in 
a converse state. 

We may also believe, however, that the original plurality is a 
pure homogeneous. In that case all the different varieties of 
beings would be born from different ways of union between 
identically similar elements. The closer die fusion between a 

9 A metaphysician would comment that it is more the expression 'positive 
non-being' that is a 'purely verbal explanation*. 

10 Thus there would somehow be two divine creative acts: the first, quasi- 
organic, concluding in the appearance of pure Multiple (= the effect in conflict 
with the divine oneness); the second, quasi-efficient, unifying the Multiple 
(= creation properly so called). (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

Creative Union 165 

greater number of elements, the more perfect the creature would 

In the first case, there would have been, from the very be- 
ginning, a distinction between quality and quantity: but the two 
would vary in step with one another. In the second case, the 
quale would be a secondary consequence of the quantum: the 
latter view seems to fit better into our system. 

However that may be, creative union, which sets up a direct 
relationship between the spirituality of the soul and the com- 
plexity of the body, thereby brings out an exact relationship (as 
yet more empirical than theoretical) between quality and quantity: 
Plus esse = plus, a pluribus uniri (p. 5) [= p. 155, above]. 

Just as the wider the base of the pyramid and the more acute 
the angle at the apex, the higher it is, so (in our universe) the 
created being is the more spiritual, the more closely it concen- 
trates in itself a greater initial multiplicity. 

This axiom entails a number of interesting corollaries: 

(i) First, it shows that we must accept for the universe a finally 
determined and invariable power of development. Simply through the 
fact that the creative flux has covered a certain 'area* of the 
Multiple, the world is destined to attain a certain degree of 
spiritualization, this being a function of the mass of transformed 
plurality. This degree, which cannot be exceeded, is, of course, a 
theoretical maximum. In all evolution, in fact, we have to allow 
for failure, perversion and wastage — for evil. Not the whole of 
the mass summoned to union obeys the flood that urges it on. 
Side by side with quickening, spiritualizing forms of union there 
are others (as in crystals, for example) that paralyse, immobilize, 
materialize; and, what is worse, there are antagonisms, divisions, 

(ii) In spite of these inevitable losses, the spiritual perfection of 
the universe is still in direct ratio to the breadth of its material 
basis. Thus the simplicity of the soul, concentrated on a single 
point, is strangely linked to the immensity of space around us, an 
immensity that has been regarded by some as a useless extrava- 
gance and by others as a gesture of gracious munificence. We 
would be much more justified in seeing it as an organic con- 
dition of our faculty of thought. The whole of this vast cosmos, 

1 66 Writings in Time of War 

and all these countless treasures, were necessary for the concen- 
tration of our soul's complex essence: and it remains equally 
necessary that there should continue to be this hidden, under- 
lying influx in order to provide substance for the wonderful 
synthesis of Spirit. 

(iii) The staggering dimensions of the universe enable us to 
understand the limitless duration of evolution. In a system in 
which the perfecting of beings is effected not through 'drawing 
out' potential forces already implanted in them, but through the 
aggregation of pre-existing elements slowly seeking out one 
another through a Multitude, the immensity of time is a function of 
the immensity of space. The accumulation of centuries upon 
centuries is as necessary to the simplicity of the soul as the pro- 
fusion of stars. 

(iv) Quality, though born of quantity, is essentially higher than 
it. It would, therefore, be a mistake to allow oneself to be 
hypnotized by sheer number or to measure the strength of a 
force by the legions it recruits. It is not multiplication that makes 
things greater (since Multitude — quantity — pre-exist in nothing- 
ness): it is unification. A real multiplication, that is to say an 
operation that increased the absolute number of existing beings, 
would represent a parte rei a reversion to plurality, a division — in 
other words a decrease in the perfection of the universe. The 
true force is not that which increases number but that which 
reduces it. 

b: transience, true matter 

Philosophers have always met great difficulties in trying to 
account for the interaction of beings. The problem of transience 
(with that of movement) is the crux philosophorum. Is this not to 
some extent their own fault, in that, like Zeno, they adopt a 
position in which the problem is insoluble? If we say that the 
monads are complete and self-contained, if we attribute no 
metaphysical value to the environment in which they are con- 
tained, it is obvious that we shall never be able to explain the 
influence that substances exert upon one another. Similarly, 

Creative Union 167 

movement becomes a priori impossible if we break it down into 
fragments of immobility. 

In the theory of creative union, the difficulty of transience does 
not arise, for the simple reason that the theory does not admit that 
things can exist in isolation. Since every being can subsist and hold 
together only through confluence with others, transience, far from 
being inexplicable, is the very condition for the monads' existence. 

It may be urged that to side-step the question in this way is not 
to get rid of the problem but to transpose it to another context. 
We still have to explain the nature of a being which is at the same 
time itself and something else. To this I would reply that while this 
new problem may still be as awkward as the earlier, it has at least 
this advantage, that it is the real problem of the world: it is not a 
pseudo-problem, insoluble and barren, that arises from looking at 
things only from the point of view of a previously constructed 
system. I may add that if the mixed state of incompletely in- 
dividualized 11 beings presents obscurities for rational analysis, we 
can readily distinguish the cause of the obscurity: it derives from 
the inchoative nature of the universe. Whatever arguments we 
may bring forward, we cannot prevent the cosmos from being in 
fieri. Inevitably, therefore, in its present form, it can never be 
explained by theories constructed, as metaphysics constructs them, 
for things that are completely made. 12 

According to creative union, then, the transience of action 
results from the fact that the monads are caught up, enveloped, 
in a tenuous immanence that draws them all to itself. Far from 
being residual and decreasing, this common immanence is the 
dawn or adumbration of a Unity that is destined to become more 
and more fully realized. The sum of the universe's transience will 

11 It will be noted that, in the theory set out here, beings at present incom- 
pletely individualized are not beings in process of separation but oeings moving 
towards union. According to the principle of creative union, the maximum 
differentiation (individualization) of the elements coincides with their unifica- 
tion in the universal Centre. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

12 One might say that the physics of the experiential (the world of the 
continuous and the moving) is an w/w-metapnysics (the laws of thought 
extend, strictly, only to things that are fixed and complete, in other words to 
things that have attained their full reality: reason, therefore, is not a faculty 
practical and lower in order: but its constructions hold good with full rigour 
only for a world more advanced than ours). 

168 Writings in Time of War 

continue to increase until the time when it attains the value of an 
immanence that will embrace all things in a sort of common 

This was not the view that I tried to justify earlier in Cosmic 
Life (1916). 13 At that time I saw beings as held together princi- 
pally by matter, so that, while fused together in their physical 
basis, they proceeded to disengage and isolate themselves in their 
spiritual apexes. I am now looking at it from a diametrically 
opposite point of view. 

At a lower level than our souls, there are, no doubt, many 
interconnexions that we speak of as material. We hold together 
through the texture of the ether, through the impetus of the vital 
current; but these vast fundamental links should not be regarded 
as proceeding from our roots in matter. We should see them as 
the symptoms of far-reaching pre-spiritual union, effected, before 
the appearance of thought, by some sort offormae cosmicae: these 
latter being imposed on the Multiple by a breath from on high. 
The ether, life, and mankind(?) are great ill-defined souls, serving 
as a preliminary to more perfect forms of concentration. We 
should say that transience is an effect, not of matter, but of Spirit. 
What binds the monads together is not, properly speaking, the 
body, but the soul. 14 

Supposing, then, we have come habitually to define matter by 
these very properties of transience which are removed from it in 
its passage to Spirit — supposing we have always held that the 
essence of the physical is to ensure the interconnexion, the con- 
sistence, the fertility, of the world: in that case, we have to effect 
in ourselves a complete reversal in our attitude to the values of the 
cosmos. Conceding to the lower form of the 'material' only the 
attribute of multiplicity, we find ourselves obliged to recognize 
that true matter (in other words what we have always recognized 
and respected under that name) is Spirit. 

This is a revindication of the attitude of those who instinctively 
revere the universal Milieu 15 and look to it for an answer to this 

18 See above, Cosmic Life, ch. 1-A.2. Unity in the Ether, pp. 19-22. 

14 On this question of the soul of the world', see below, the introductory 
note to the essay so entitled. 

15 It should be remembered that when Pere Teilhard speaks of 'milieu' he 

Creative Union 169 

problem, no less than the centres of activity contained in it. Since 
Spirit has not yet completed its concentration but is still floating — 
in some part of it, and that the most precious — in a diffuse state 
among the souls that Creation brings together, it would be a great 
mistake to regard the value of the world as a monopoly of the 
monads we know. It is, on the contrary, the extra-individual, the 
inter-personal, that contains the hopes of higher union on which 
evolution lives. It is the milieu of die monads' mutual attraction 
and confluence that sustains their final centre of coalescence. Thus 
a certain 'intellectual materialism', by which I mean the according 
of a certain precedence to the cosmic over the personal, has the 
effect of leading to a more enlightened cult of die Spirit. 

To many, I believe, this will be more than a moral solace. It 
will give them also a considerable intellectual satisfaction. Anyone 
who looks closely at the world cannot but be continually dis- 
appointed when he sees how beings crumble into dust. So far, 
the monads have been distressingly apt to break away from one 
another, to be alien and indifferent to one another. Almost with- 
out exception, they each follow their own road, freely and ego- 
centrically. Has the curve of my life anything in common with 
the fate of the insect scurrying at my feet? If the fusion of beings 
is effected through matter — which means that it has reached its 
maximum — then goodbye to our obstinate dreams of unity! 
Blessings, then, on the philosophy that shows us that the cohesion 
of things is destined to be completed in thefuturel 

If it is not to flinch under the burden implied by so vast a hope, 
the future must be possessed of an extreme solidity. Spirit can 
inherit the stability of matter only if its own advances can find 
ahead of them an even more earnest guarantee than that which 
assured the success of the past: the consistence of the future is the 
indispensable condition for the consistence of unity. 

The theory of creative union fully appreciates this necessity. 

It sees the future taking the place of the past, just as Spirit takes 
the place of body. In duration, it is the future and not the past that 

has at the back of his mind the 'divine milieu; in other words he is thinking 
first, in St Paul's words, of God 'in whom we live and move and have our 
being*. (Acts 17:28.) 

170 Writings in Time of War 

becomes the direction in which being attains solidity, density, 
stability. And the principle that gives coherence to the fluctuating 
and ambivalent multitude of contingencies is, as we saw earlier 
(pp. 160-2) the final purpose of providence; it is the influence of 
the transcendent Centre whose unerring action can infallibly 
guide chance towards its determined end. 

Strong in this assurance, the creature can commit itself without 
hesitation to the apparent uncertainty of the morrow. Its head 
may reel at the thought that it is falling into emptiness, but in fact 
nothing could be more solid, more certain, than the ground on 
which it is advancing. If man believes with sufficient vigour in 
the force that is creating him, he will soon find that, for all its 
terrifying uncertainty, the future provides him with a solid 
footing as he advances. Credenti, omnia convertuntur in bonum — for 
the believer, all things are changed into good — for the future is 
like the waters upon which the apostle walked: the stronger our 
faith, the more firmly it holds us up. 

The fact that the seat of transience in the universe is not what is 
material in beings but what is spiritual, entails an important moral 
consequence. It effectively determines the direction in which love 
should seek expression, and explains its too frequent lapses from 

Love seeks for union, in other words for contact with beings. 
When we ask how that contact may be established, we instinc- 
tively give the easy answer 'through matter', and too often we 
act accordingly. We all know that the purest affection can degen- 
erate into a crude form of union; we have all grieved to see a 
relationship that originated on the highest spiritual plane grad- 
ually extend, unchecked, to the flesh. The majority of lovers, 
driven on by a passion to melt into one, to form but one, 
imagine that each can penetrate into the being of the other 
through ever more material expressions of love. 

Experience plainly condemns this method of union, which 
always first disappoints and teases desire and then offers it a surfeit 
that brings a sense of futility and disgust. The theory put forward 
in this essay can readily explain this failure. Physical love can 
never achieve its aim, because the principle on which it relies, 
matter, is not a principle of contact but of separation. The 

Creative Union 171 

Multiple drives out the Multiple. The more, therefore, we try to 
meet on a lower sphere, the more we drift apart. 

How, then, should we love another if we are truly to come 
together? The answer is, in Spirit. 

The love that is directed towards the mutual spiritualization of 
the lovers, the love that does not seek to bring them together 
directly so much as to converge together upon the same divine 
Centre, that is the love, indefinitely advancing and endlessly 
renewed, within which beings gradually build up their unity. 

This love, it is true, cannot and must not dispense with matter, 
any more than can the soul. Just as Spirit is never so enfranchised 
from matter as to be able to reject it, so every union of love must 
begin on the material basis of sensible confrontation and know- 
ledge. It is a fundamental law of creative union that the fusion of 
spiritual apexes presupposes a coincidence of their bases. 

The essential condition of happiness is this: progress in intimacy 
must be sought in the higher zones of being, where a more 
advanced contact — a contact that we might call specific — corres- 
ponds to every higher degree of spiritualization — one degree more 
in transience and true unification. 

f: the morphogenic function of morality 

From what we have already said, it is clear that love does not set 
up a no more than extrinsic relation between beings, whose term is a 
mere moral completion of each being by the other. Love is the 
conscious mark in us of the act that creates us by melting us into 
one. It is a factor of physical organization and physical construc- 
tion. 16 

In consequence of this, the social groups whose formation it 
governs have a reality much higher than that of an association 
formed for economic reasons or for enjoyment: the collective 
units represent attempts, varying in the depth and distance to 

16 Pere Teilhard often uses 'physical' in its original Greek meaning: ^ ^va-is = 
nature; ^vo-ikos — pertaining to nature, or, we might say, organic. It is used 
as opposed not to 'supernatural' but to 'superficial, artificial, or simply 

172 Writings in Time of War 

which they are carried, to make the Multitude of mankind raise 
itself to a physical unity higher— more spiritual — in order. 

This coincides with the conclusion we reached earlier when we 
extrapolated the law of creative union. So long as a substance is 
still in a state of essential plurality (that is to say of unorganized 
multiplicity) we can be sure that it is incomplete and is going to 
produce, by a more advanced creation, purer and more concen- 
trated being. Human souls are essentially legion, and a legion of 
undisciplined units. Their multitude, after having taken the place 
of other more diffuse multitudes, will have to come to an end in 
its turn. The sum of our souls is the potentiality (the non-being') 
of Some Thing, not yet made, which is to emerge from their 
mass. 17 Collective aspirations accompany and assist this organic 
work, greater than ourselves, which is effected in each one of us. 
It is the function of Morality to guide our free decisions into 
fruitful and obedient co-operation in this task. 

Morality is generally regarded as a system of actions and 
relationships that are biologically secondary^ less immediate and 
less physical than material or vital relationships. This is a great 
mistake. One has only to study, from the point of view of 
'creative union', its role in the evolution of living beings, in order 
to see how profound is the morphogenic power of the Good. 
Through its two fundamental virtues of chastity and charity, 
practised in renunciation, the Christian moral system is strict- 
ly ordered towards the progressive unification of the living 
being. 18 

By fighting against the powers in the being that cause it to 
disintegrate, chastity maintains the elements of Spirit in their state 
of hard-won coherence, and carries them farther. It unifies the 
monad in its own self. 

Conversely, charity is the force that stops beings from shutting 
themselves up in a self-centred folding-in of their energies, and 
makes them 'unbutton', open themselves and surrender them- 
selves to one another: it makes them find a centre outside themselves 
and so enhance a higher centre of association. It unifies the monads 

17 This, in brief, is the theme of The Struggle against the Multitude (note by 
Pere Teilhard.) 

18 The mystical body of Christ. See below, G, Union in Christ. 

Creative Union 173 

among one another, a role that is particularly godlike and provi- 
dential in a world in which die appearance of intelligence 
inaugurated a crisis of autonomy and individualism. 

From a purely natural and empirical point of view, life's 
further advances are seriously jeopardized by the very perfection 
of Spirit that their logical development has brought about. 
Intoxicated by their independence, the monads think only of 
living for themselves. Man's aversion from all promiscuous 
contact with his like, and his passion for his own selfish develop- 
ment to the exclusion of all else, are dangerous forces of dis- 
integration; they sap the foundations of the world and attack the 
seed of unity it contains. Charity safeguards the development of 
the universe and keeps it to the true path of its progress. Moral 
effort is the continuation in our souls of the same dynamic effort that 
gave us our bodies. 

If a being is to unify itself and concentrate in itself, it must 
break many pernicious attachments. If it is to make itself one 
with others and give itself to them, it must, in appearance, en- 
croach on the most jealously cultivated private domain of its 
mind and heart. If it is to attain a higher life by centring upon 
another Self, it must destroy the preliminary unity in its own self. 
This means without a shadow of doubt that at all levels of being 
as it develops, the creative synthesis entails severance, every 
aggregation being accompanied by a segregation. Moral effort is 
necessarily accompanied by pain and sacrifice. That is why in 
every moral system perfection is bound up with suffering, and the 
highest form of life is reached through a death. Death (that is to 
say, disintegration) comes with every change for good or for bad. 
While, however, with some (whom it leaves permanently 
broken up and diminished) it is purely ad mortem, with others 
(whom, as it breaks them up, it compensates) it is a transition — 
the unique issue — that leads to the new life. 

g: union in CHRIST 

The higher organic unity — the higher spirituality — towards which 
souls essentially tend, does not seem to be inaugurated in any of 

174 Writings in Time of War 

the specifically terrestrial associations we see taking shape around 
us. If we are to understand the true term of cosmic concentration 
(spiritualization), we must— as we would naturally anticipate — 
look for the answer in that same Religion whose moral teaching 
we saw to be so admirably in harmony with the laws that govern 
the development of the universe. Christianity answers that the 
term of the world is Christ. 

Christ, it is true, is not the centre whom all things here below 
could naturally aspire to be one with. To be destined for Christ 
is a gratuitous favour of the Creator we have no right to count 
upon. Nevertheless it remains true that the Incarnation so com- 
pletely recast the universe in the supernatural that, in concrete fact^ 
we can no longer ask, or imagine, towards what Centre the 
elements of this world, had they not been raised up by grace, 
would have gravitated. Physically speaking, there is only one 
dynamism in the present world, that which gathers all things to 
Christ. Christ is the centre to which all the successfully realized, 
living, elect portions of the cosmos make their way, in whom each 
finds its being. In him, 'the plenitude of the universe', omnia 
creantur because omnia uniuntur—zll things are created because all 
things are made one — and there we meet again the precise formula 
of creative union. 

Simply to consider the human soul, analysed as a structure 
that is composite in origin (cf. §a), may well be sufficient in itself 
to induce our minds to build up the ontological system put for- 
ward in this essay. Without knowledge of Christ, this exposition 
would be extremely vulnerable and hypothetical, particularly in 
the extrapolation that led us to anticipate a spirituality, still to be 
realized, that is to be born from the sum of our souls. With 
knowledge of Christ, this almost delirious dream becomes to 
some degree a Reality known by faith. As the reader must have 
seen for some time, the philosophy of creative union is simply the 
development — generalization, extension to the universe— of what 
the Church teaches us about the growth of Christ. It is the 
philosophy of the universe expressed in terms of the notion of the 
mystical body. It was primarily as such that I myself came to 
grasp it, and it is only so that it can be understood: by striving to 
love and hold Christ in all things. 

Creative Union 175 

For the believer who has understood — in their full force and 
with no qualification — the words of St John and St Paul, Christ 
reveals himself at the heart of every being that progresses, as a 
Centre that is at once very near and very distant: very near, 
because he is, and it is his will to be, at the source of every 
affection; very distant, because the being cannot unite himself to 
Christ except at the term of a long process of perfection. 

Precisely because there exists in all beings a common centre, 
scattered and separable though they are in appearance, they meet 
together at a deeper level. The more they perfect themselves 
naturally and sanctify themselves in grace, the more they come 
together and fuse into one, within the single, unifying Centre to 
which they aspire: and we may call that Centre equally well the 
point upon which they converge, or the ambience in which they 

All these reachings-out that draw beings together and unify 
them constitute the axis of all individual and collective life. It is 
in virtue of that axis that we see that Christ has not only a mystical, 
but a cosmic body, the most impressive description of whose chief 
attributes we owe to St Paul — even if he never uses the actual 
term. 19 And this Cosmic Body, to be found in all things, and 
always in process of individualization (spiritualization) is emi- 
nently the mystical Milieu; whoever can enter into that milieu 
is conscious of having made his way to the very heart of every- 
thing, of having found what is most enduring in it. There, 
neither rust nor worm can penetrate; it is immune from the 
distress of misadventure; and there both action and love can make 
themselves felt by every being with the highest degree of im- 
mediacy and effectiveness. 

At the term of the creative effort, when the kingdom of God 
has reached maturity, all the chosen monads and all the elect 
forces of the universe will be fused into God through Christ. 
Then, through the plenitude of his individual being, of his 
mystical body and his cosmic body, Christ, in himself alone, will 
be the heavenly Jerusalem, the new world. There, the original 
Multitude of bodies and souls — vanquished, but still recognizable 

19 These various ideas are treated in more detail, and vindicated, in Cosmic 
Life (1916) and The Mystical Milieu (1917). (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

176 Writings in Time of War 

and distinct— will be encompassed in a Unity that will make of it 
one single spiritual thing. 

All human endeavour, whether in action, in prayer, in peace, 
in war, in science, or in charity — all must press on to the building 
up of this blessed city. 

Thus the philosophy of creative union culminates in a highly 
realistic mysticism. It originated in physical and biological 
observation, it proceeded by examining things from the meta- 
physical angle, and continues — still the same philosophy — into a 
moral and ascetical system, into religion. 

Like the supreme Philosophy, with its roots in the ancient 
world, it is much more than a logical system that satisfies the 
mind: it is a unique way of living and of understanding every- 
thing. 20 

November 1917 21 

20 Cf. the Soul of the World, p. 186, below. 

21 Dated November 1917, in Forma Christi. See below, p. 267, n. 16. 

The Soul of the World 

It is not very easy to see exactly what Pere Teilhard had in mind when 
he used the expression 'the soul of the world 9 , since the concept is ill- 
defined and varies from time to time. The same is true of the similar 
expression, 'the Spirit of the Earth', applied only to that part of the 
world which is offered in the first instance to our experience. 

'I spoke of the Spirit of the Earth. But what are we to understand by 
that ambiguous phrase? 9 (The Future of Man, p. 147.) 

'But this Spirit, vaguely conceived as some sort of opposite pole to the 
energy of the physicist, still — and this was to be true for a long time — 
had no precise structure for me . ('Le Coeur de la Matiere 9 .) 

We must understand exactly what Pere Teilhard is trying to do. He 
has an intuition of the unity of the universe and of a unity, still in- 
complete, that is in process of being realized (evolution). On 12 March 
igi8, shortly after the date of the essay printed here, he notes: 'The 
soul of the world = unity in fieri'. 

For Phre Teilhard, as for the Schoolmen, there is no true unity 
without principle of unity: and to speak of 'principle of unity is to 
speak of 'soul 9 . 

Moreover, as he continually reaffirmed, this unity cannot be per- 
fected without an Absolute. The supreme principle of unity is, there- 
fore, God. (Pere Teilhard almost always says 'Christ 9 . This is 
because, in the Christian dogma, it is through Christ and in Christ that 
the unity of the mystical body is realized: . . .'I want to show that the 
life of Our Lord Jesus Christ flows through all things, the true Soul of 
the World 9 . Cf. below, 'The Priest 9 , p. 203. 

Here, however, we meet a complication. 

Even from the natural point of view, the evolving world appears, to 
our reason, to converge towards a unity. Since the point of convergence 
is called Omega Point (o>) by Pere Teilhard, and since the principle of 
unity active in it is also called <o, he is faced with the problem of the 

178 Writings in Time of War 

duality of the co: one natural (which he sometimes calls omicron,o), and 
the other supernatural (identified with Christy whom he calls o). 

Is there really ano, the natural soul of the world, subordinate and 
ordered to Christ-v, intermediate between the evolving world and 
Christ? At first Pere Teilhard was inclined to say that there was; later 
he rejected such a duality more and more decisively. That is why the 
soul of the world, in this sense ofo, soon disappears from his writings. 
What caused him to affirm it in the first place, was, we have good 
reason to believe, the theology of the relationship between nature and the 
supernatural that he had no doubt been taught. In that teaching, the 
supernatural end (<o) was presented as a superaddition to a natural end 
(o), which it more or less supplanted. Pere Teilhard gradually came to 
reject this theological concept, and so returned (though we may wonder 
whether he realized it) to the true patristic and medieval theology. St 
Thomas expressed this succinctly, when he said of the final end: non 
est aliquid naturae, sed naturae finis — it is not in any way of nature, 
but the end of nature. 

Thus we first find Pere Teilhard noting, on 31 December 191 7, when 
he was writing the present essay: 'I think one could establish the 
existence, intermediate between the world and Christ (distinctio 
saltern rationis ratiocinatae, a distinction at least of the ratio- 
cinative reason) of a natural cosmic entity (=the soul of the world), 
which is the natural form of the absolute in our universe 9 : and then, as 
early as October 1918, writing: 'In "The Soul of the World", I 
accepted that there was in the K(= cosmos) a natural location (zone) of 
souls that was identified with X (= Christ). It would perhaps be better 
to see the e (= the sum-total) of souls as forming a plurality, indeter- 
minate in form, to which the X (= Christ) is superadded with no 
intermediary, even rationis. "On natural grounds" there can be no 
more than the "expectation" of a unification: without Christ, the K 
(= cosmos) would have no natural <o (omega). It would remain open'. 
(Cf below, 'Forma Christi, §B, last paragraph.) 

Finally, in the later writings, 'the soul of the world 9 was to merge 
into and even be identified with, the noosphere. 


Et vocabitur nomen ejus Emmanuel. 

Between God and ourselves, there is a universal, created, 
Milieu: for Christians (who see through it without seeing it) 
it is transparent [translucent], for unbelievers (who can see 
only the milieu), opaque. 

a: the rift in charity 

When the Church clashes with the unbelief of the godless or is 
torn by heresy, we who have the faith are accustomed to attribute 
her failure to a defect in the recalcitrant or dissenters. 'Christian 
morality', we say, 'was too much for them, or they were victims 
of pride. In rejecting or abandoning us, these men yielded to 
some tendency in their soul towards evil or towards the easy way 
out: they show a lack of energy, an undisciplined passion, a 
culpable obstinacy. They have been disloyal to nature, they have 
not loved the truth with sufficient generosity of heart and dis- 
interestedness. That is why they have never found, or have lost, 
the Faith/ 

That is what we say to ourselves when we meet unbelief. 

It may be true that this critical explanation of the resistance 
offered by the world to the Kingdom of God is sufficient to 
account for many individual or collective crises in the history of 
Christianity. At the present moment any number of souls are 
still ignorant of Christ because they do not love enough or because 
they love in the wrong way. On the whole this dissent is of little 
moment to the apologist: for Christ, who came to save even 
earth's failures, cannot, for all that, be judged on the view taken 
of him by these poor creatures from the depth of their degrada- 

A much more serious symptom, and one which highly com- 

180 Writings in Time of War 

plicatcs the problem — and the cure — of unbelief, is that we can 
see around us an increasing number of men of good will who cut 
themselves off from Christ precisely through love, because they 
need and hope to love better and more fully. 

This is something we cannot fail to notice if we take die trouble 
to look. 

Anyone, today, whose contact with unbelievers has not been 
confined to his textbooks — by which I mean anyone who has read 
their writings with a sympathetic mind or has been on familiar 
and friendly terms widi them, and so learnt the direction in which 
their aspirations tend — will agree with me on this point: that we 
find, in the best minds our race is producing, this fear that Chris- 
tianity is no longer/we enough to satisfy the desires that mean most 
to them. In so far as we can read the secrets of other men's souls, 
when even our own are more or less closed to us, we can see that 
there are among us sincere and religious men, men whose lives 
are spent in hard work and self-denial, who find that our dogmas 
no longer come up to the standard of their aspirations. Charity — 
natural charity — is not dead in these men; one cannot even say 
that it is beginning to grow cold. It is being directed elsewhere, 
towards some purer, more human, more exalted Reality, towards 
some passionately loved 'Antichrist'. 

This rift in charity, is, I believe, one of the facts that characterize 
the life of the Church today, and it may well have important 
consequences for the religious state of tomorrow's world. 
Between Christ in the Church and the human ideal, something 
has broken down, something has come adrift, there has been a 
dislocation. There is a danger that the human heart may no 
longer be on our side. 

How has this come about? 

In this essay, I hope to show that the distemper from which we 
are all suffering has its origin in a misunderstanding between 
dogma and emancipated thought, centring on what, for lack of 
a better name, I shall call the Soul of the World. 

The Soul of the World 181 

b: consciousness of the absolute 

There can be doubt that we are conscious of carrying within us 
something greater and more indispensable than ourselves: some- 
thing that existed before we did and could have continued to 
exist without us: something in which we live, and that we cannot 
exhaust: something that serves us but of which we are not 
masters: something that will gather us up when, through death, 
we slip away from ourselves and our whole being seems to be 

If our soul were the only soul in the world, and if its knowledge 
summed up all the consciousness drawn from the universe, it 
would undoubtedly find that it is dominated and filled to over- 
flowing by a Power beside which it is as nothing, and with which, 
nevertheless, it is but one. Bowed under the threefold bondage of 
its substance, its origin, and its progress in being, it would dis- 
cover, without having to look outside itself, that it is itself 
infinitely greater than the sensibly apprehensible determinations 
and the free manifestations that make up its activity. Confronted 
by this masterful guest who, it felt, lived by virtue of the soul's 
being, the soul would be overcome by a profound and sacred 
feeling of awe. 

Our soul, however, is not unique. It would even, no doubt, 
be a contradiction of the world's design and of the mechanism of 
union by which the world develops, to imagine it to be unique 
'in natura rerum\ Souls are legion. But if we ask what lies 
between souls and holds them together, what they have in common 
that makes them into a single living mass, then we meet a great 
mystery; it is one that we are blind to, because our attention is 
always turned in the direction in which human beings appear to 
be isolated from one another and to wander restlessly like in- 
comprehensible monads. 

Souls do not form one solid block: if they did they would not 
react upon one another nor would they share a knowledge of the 
same universe. The sum, therefore, of their conscious individu- 
alities must be less than the whole quantity of being contained in 
their total. If we mentally extract and add up the perfections 

1 82 Writings in Time of War 

of all souls taken in isolation, we shall have no more than a 
phantom world. What we do will leave a most impressive 
residue that belongs to no particular soul but to all souls together. 

What is this essential residue that makes the totality of the 
elements of the world to be richer than their sum? 

Is it some reservoir of prime substance which is lent to all and 
takes a different form in each, without any part of it being 
broken up — something more like a body? 

Or is it on the contrary (as is probable) the indication of a 
synthesizing and directing energy, that stirs up and impels 
creatures towards a higher state of unity — something more like a 

Its precise nature, in fact, is of little importance. 

What matters to us here is that its existence has to be accepted; 
that we, and all living beings, are grafted upon one and the same 
Reality as tangible as our own substance — and this whether we 
seek to arrive at the most highly concentrated point in our own 
person, or whether we extend ourselves to the measure of the 
whole of mankind. Whichever road we follow, we cannot 
withdraw from the superficial plane of day to day relationships 
without finding immediately behind us, as though it were an extension 
of ourselves, a soul of the world. 

Since all time, the poets — the true poets — have felt the presence 
of the soul of the world, in the solitude of the deserts, in nature's 
fruitful breath, in the fathomless swell of the human heart. 
Everywhere it asserted itself as a living thing, and yet nowhere 
could they grasp it; and their loftiest inspiration was but the 
distress they suffered from its elusive presence. 

Every age has seen a group of men on whom its light has 
shone with a special radiance and who have accorded it a devotion 
that amounted to true worship. 

Every mystical system (as I have tried to show elsewhere — cf. 
The Mystical Milieu) has to some degree been fed from the never- 
failing spring within us of love for the great whole of which we 
are a part. 

Throughout the centuries the soul of the world has con- 
stantly, from the manifold energy exerted by its magnetism, 

The Soul of the World 1 83 

provided fuel for human enthusiasm and passion in their most 
intense form. 

It has never ceased to produce within mankind a mighty 
current of pantheism, sometimes more conscious, sometimes less, 
directed towards itself. 

Even so, with the passage of time, its radiating influence seems 
to become progressively more distinctly recognizable, and more 
and more indispensable for our intellectual and emotional satis- 
faction. It will not be long before no structure of truth or good- 
ness can be built up without a central position being reserved for 
that soul, for its influence and its universal mediation. 

Science's work of disclosing to us the inexhaustible energies of 
matter and the internal development of evolution has not been in 
vain; it has finally and permanently made us concentrate our 
attention on the virtues contained in the being that moulds us. 

We owe a similar debt to the concept of the social state: by 
teaching men the strength of the links that unite them and the 
force produced by their union, it has opened their eyes to the 
hopes, as yet, maybe, ill-defined, passed on from one generation 
to another. 

Philosophy, too, in examining the conditions of our knowledge 
and action, has found itself gradually obliged to build nothing 
that does not rest on the foundations of immanence. 

In the light of this manifold illumination (which is perhaps 
simply the radiance projected by its own coming) the soul of the 
world is gradually emerging all around us, as an absorbing and 
inevitable Reality. Many, no doubt, are still blind to it; but those 
who can see how it is growing greater have no doubt but that the 
day will soon come when no human ideal will be able to continue 
to exist apart from it. 

For it is not simply that the soul of the world must inevitably 
be accepted by our intelligence as a principle of existence and 
truth: the road to our heart, too, has been lying open to its 
domination for much longer than we could have suspected. 

In that soul, everything works together to win the allegiance of 
modern man. 
There is first, its quality as Absolute, which offers us, under- 

1 84 Writings in Time of War 

lying the instability of beings and their tendency to crumble into 
dust, a principle of stability and unity that allows us to admire 
and love the beauties of the Earth, secure in the knowledge that 
in their attraction something solid and eternal is contained. 

Its Intimacy \ which penetrates and dissolves us, which makes its 
substance to be truly ours and truly within us, so that while it has 
sovereignty over us it is at the same time our own work. 

Its Greatness, which cradles and encompasses us, which tangibly 
absorbs us. 

Its extra -or supra-individuality, which allows us to give our 
energy to a life-work in which there is no ego-centrism, and 
which is radiant with selflessness. 

And finally, its undeniable mystery, rich with promises that are 
already, in some obscure way, fulfilled. 

We must make no mistake about this: A Divinity is being born 
among us. A new (and age-old) star is rising in the consciousness 
of man, and nothing can escape its magnetic force. 

There are men among us who do not believe in Christ: they 
disclaim him in advance, because they suspect him of being 
hostile to the more immediate and more certain Absolute they 
can distinguish in the depths of their own being. In comparison 
with that term, Christ seems too distant — too easy to understand — 
too prone to lure us with the bait of a selfish and individual 
reward — he is at once too much of a man for them and not 
human enough to satisfy the pride of their ambitions. 

There are odiers, however, who have faith in Christ: and these 
find the simplicity of their outlook on God hampered. Drawn in 
conflicting directions by the instinct inherent in their nature and 
by the obligations of their belief, they suffer the distress of a 
dichotomy in their outlook and action. 

It is the appearance of the soul of the world that upsets and 
splits the primal force of love in us. It is that soul which causes the 
rift in charity. 


Would it, in truth, be possible for the virtue of Christ to be 
exhausted? for his perfection to sink into the past? for the rich- 

The Soul of the World 185 

ness of his being to be powerless, in this new age, to satisfy the 
hunger of mankind? 

No, indeed — a thousand times no ! 

But if we look for an explanation, it may well be that, in 
Christian teaching, the contact between Christ and the world is 
not sufficiently emphasized for the needs today; and this is for 
lack of a theory that is bold enough openly to make plain the 
natural medium in which the union of both is effected. 1 

The present postulate of the divine immanence, we should be 
careful to note, may be justified on two grounds. 

In the first place, because, in real fact, we experience the presence 
'ad intra* of a Reality more absolute and more precious than our- 
selves, which has the first claim on our veneration, and in which 
alone we can hope, when we die, to find a cosmic extension of our 

Secondly because, if God is to be God, he must bring about for 
us the summum of our intimate being, that is to say he must appear 
within us through some development and extension of ourselves, 
continuous and unbroken, since nothing can be more intimate to 
a being than its own self. 

= there is a soul of the world and that if we are to be beatified 
it is through that soul that it must come about. 

What then, are we to do to maintain Christ's primordial rights 
over us? 

On the authority of the essential principles of Revelation, we 
must show that Christ and the soul of the world are not two 
opposed realities, independent of one another, and completely 
distinct 'in natura rerum\ but that one of those realities is the 
medium in which we are transformed into the other. 

In practice, if not in theory, our Lord has been presented to our 
contemporaries too exclusively in the form of a moral comple- 
ment — extrinsic, particularist and individual, promised to their 
personality. They have been given a picture of Christ, dis- 
sociated from the universe, as a detached fragment which brings 
men into conflict with one another. It is hardly surprising that 

1 Pere Teilhard wrote in the margin of this paragraph: 'We have to establish 
(explain) the fusion, find the bridge between, Everything (in the effort of 
evolution, in substance) and God who is in all things 9 . 

1 86 Writings in Time of War 

when the soul of the world, in turn, spontaneously entered into 
human consciousness, men should have seen it as a 'parallel', or 
as a hostile or more powerful, Absolute — as a new Messiah more 
to be longed for than the old. 

The soul of the world is an inescapable reality, more immediate, 
in one sense, than Christ. To try to make men accept Christ 
without accepting or before accepting that soul is to reverse or 
destroy the ontological order of creation; it is to create a false 
appearance of duality in the aspirations of our hearts. We must, 
and this is urgent, restore things to their proper place, and no 
longer by-pass an essential stage in Christian apologetics and life. 

Far from pushing Christ into the background, it is in Christ 
alone that the universe finds the guarantee of its consistence; and 
this is the first thing that we must be careful to make clear. The 
highest form we can attribute to the soul of the world is that of 
a spirit which is in process of developing its synthesis from a 
starting-point in the lower multiplicity of matter: in that form it 
holds together only through the unifying action of a centre 
which we must assume to be transcendent if we are not to see the 
hopes of the cosmos (and more particularly of mankind) vitiated 
by an incurable contingency. (Cf. Creative Union, November, 
1917.) The Absolute we think we can feel within us must be 
accepted as fully absolute; otherwise the least jar may well cause 
it to fall apart in our hands. If we ask by what virtue it can attain 
permanent solidity, Scripture gives us a categorical answer in the 
properties it attributes to the incarnate Word — so magnificently 
enumerated by the Church in the Litany of the Sacred Heart: it is 
Christ who has the function of cementing the definitive concen- 
tration of the universe. The world, that is to say our substance, 
is centred on God in Christo Jesii. 

Conversely, if Christ is to carry out the cosmic task entrusted 
to him, if he is to be constituted in the fulness of his humanity, it 
is absolutely essential for him to find support in the soul of the 
world and to use it as the medium of his action. That is the 
second point we now have to make clear. 

Through the soul of the world, and through that soul alone 

The Soul of the World 187 

the Word, becoming incarnate in the universe, has been able to 
establish a vital, immediate, relationship with each one of the 
animate elements that make up the cosmos. 

Through that soul, accordingly, and for all time, the humano- 
divine influence of Christ encompasses us, penetrates us, identifies 
itself with all the forces of our growth as individuals and as a 
social whole. 

The soul of the world, whose life is drawn from the Word in- 
fused into it, is at the same time the purchase-point required for 
the Incarnation. It supplies ready to hand the matter destined to 
form the mystical body — and it is that soul, again, hidden 
beneath the countless multitudes of created beings, that envelops 
us in a living network charged with grace and spirituality. 

Thus, in the most complete and comprehensive, and the most 
authentic, Christianity, the soul of the world and Christ are not in 
opposition: they carry their being further in the identity of one 
and the same Reality. 

First, there is Christ: heir of all the attributes that make the 
world-soul our idol, of its so intimate interiority, of its so tangible 
greatness, its so intoxicating mystery. Loved and sought after as 
a world (our world) in which all is called to find salvation in all, 
the quest for Christ is safe from the twofold suspicion — damning 
in our eyes— of selfish interest or indolent indifference. 

And then, on the other hand, there is this soul: enriched by the 
transcendence, the warm life, the personal beauties, of the 
Saviour — by the exactness, too, of his teaching. We know 
henceforth how we should cleave to it: through Christ's moral 
teaching, through purity, through charity and renunciation (cf. 
Creative Union). And we make our way to Christ with all the 
natural fiery enthusiasm that makes us fling ourselves upon 

Thus, in a communion with God through the world, is 
fulfilled the final longing that quickens the sense of religion: to 
worship in ourselves something that is *us\ God with us ! God does 
not give himself to the soul as some superadded good, some 
outside supplement. He does more, and better. He comes to us 

1 88 Writings in Time of War 

through the inner road of the world; he comes down into us 
through that zone in which our incomplete being is mingled with 
the universal substance. In that day-spring of ourselves, our 
consciousness grows bright with God, through a sort of internal 
metamorphosis of the created being, which allows us to attain 
the transcendent without having to emerge from ourselves. 
Without this divinization by transmutation of our being it would 
be impossible to explain why our faith attaches such inestimable 
value to every sanctified soul. Thus the Absolute of experience 2 
is the beginning of God in us. We have both the right and the duty 
to give our allegiance to the soul of the world and to surrender 
ourselves to it. The contact we shall try to make with it is 
ordained for leading us to Christ: moreover, it cannot be fully 
realized objectively except in Christ. 

d: meditation on the world 

To conclude: the time has come when men will a priori turn away 
from any religion that offers them a God too cut off from them- 
selves and from the earth, a God who makes us contemn the 
world or who appears completely other than the world. Before 
they consent to turn back to Christ they will insist more and more 
emphatically that Christ's call must be reconciled with the voice 
of the Being, greater than themselves, whose summons they hear 
deep within their consciousness. Surely, they will say, to grasp 
the former without knowing the nature of the latter, is to drop 
the prey and chase the shadow. 

Can we say that we are really in a position to give a satisfactory 
answer to the questions that modern minds, haunted by pantheism, 
are asking? 

For centuries we have studied closely and exactly the mysteries 
of the supernatural world, the relation between the Persons of the 
Trinity, the nature of the hypostatic union, the hierarchy of 
angels and saints, the mechanism of grace. We have built up and 
embellished with loving care a theologian's universe, a universe 

2 The context makes this expression understandable, even though, meta- 
physically and theologically, it is not sufficiently accurate. 

The Soul of the World 189 

of piety. Absorbed in this esoteric task of organization, we did 
not notice that we were rapidly ceasing to make any appeal to the 
mass of human beings: as far as they were concerned, we were 
building our city in the clouds. 

The time has now come to consider, in a spirit of religious 
research, the relations that unite God to the elements of this 
world, and to the values of the universe. 

The current of 'pantheist* (cosmic) mysticism is no stranger to 
Christianity. You have only to look at William James's Varieties 
of Religious Experience — not to mention R. H. Benson — to realize 
this. But we Catholics — and this is particularly true of our 
hagiographers — regard such types of spiritual attitude as inferior 
or questionable: we accordingly leave them out of account. 
Nevertheless, in the ecstasy of those Christians who have had the 
most sublime insight, a passion for the universe is undeniably 
apparent. We can afford to wait no longer: we must explicitly 
Christianize the compulsion that leads us to divinize the world. 

In this essay I have tried to bring out the presence, between 
Christ and our souls, of a universal mediating reality: an inter- 
mediary which does not introduce a further gap between him and 
us, but removes one more division. This work will have to be 
tested and pursued, as every advance in the Church must be, in a 
quest shared by all and maintained in prayer. 

Much has still to be done. 

When we have shown the existence in us of a cosmic element 
divinized by Christ, we shall then have to go one step further. 
We shall be asked to make it perfectly clear to what degree this 
existence must, in the Christian view, be considered arbitrary. 
There is such a thing as the soul of the world. Is it, absolutely 
speaking, possible for it not to exist? 

When that question is asked, we now confine ourselves to 
saying, 'God created through love', and we may add, 'through 
even greater love, God chose a world that would sin and would 
be redeemed'. Is that emotional explanation a satisfactory 
philosophical answer? 3 Creation, Incarnation, Redemption: each 

3 Pere Teilhard added in the margin of this paragraph: 'Love must have an 
ontological foundation ... (a function — a necessity — of union). Love is — is 
born of— a need for union. It does not pre-exist— create — this need*. 

190 Writings in Time of War 

one of these, it is true, marks one degree farther in the gratuity 
of the divine operation; but are they not three acts, indissolubly 
linked, in the appearance of participated being? And does not that 
appearance itself meet a more exact need than the mere emotional 
requirement of a Bonum diffusivum 5«i? 4 

Who can say what we might find, in the light God sheds for 
us, if we enquired more often into those mysterious regions where 
the universe — the natural experiential face of God — is linked with 
the Infinite — if, above all, we looked with love. 5 

Whatever steps we take in this direction we shall never 
succeed, I fear, in effecting an absolute reconciliation between 
God and the World. Christ will always be Signum cui contra- 
dictor. Of one thing at least, however, we may be sure: the line 
dividing the good from the bad will be drawn higher up, nearer 
the natural point at which it should appear — where egocentrism 
and self-denial part company. No one must be able to say that if 
he draws away from God it is in order to remain more whole- 
heartedly human. 

Epiphany 1918 

4 Pere Teilhard notes in the margin: 'In the theological analysis of grace, we 
are primarily concerned with overcoming an apparent opposition between 
human action and the power of God — a theoretical opposition, belonging to 
the order of social relations. We do not try to bring God to light in the world 
of experience, or positively to divinize something that is within us*. 

* The answer criticized here is not necessarily an 'emotional explanation , 
nor can one legitimately relate the idea of Deus caritas so closely to the neo- 

fJatonic idea of the Bonum diffusivum sui: even though the meaning of the 
atter expression can be strained to approach that of the former. Pere Teilhard 
has taken the word 'love' here in a psychological sense without any correction 
by analogy. This is suggested by the use of the adjective 'arbitrary' in an 
earlier paragraph. The development of his thought was later to show that he 
was far from rejecting the Christian idea of love as emotional. 

The Eternal Feminine 

To Beatrix 

In his attempt to construct a coherent and all-embracing synthesis, Pere 
Teilhard could not neglect so powerful and fundamental a reality as 
love. In this essay he avails himself of Goethe s well-known expression 
'Das Ewig-Weibliche ('Faust 9 , end of Part 2) (like a composer borrow- 
ing a theme and developing it in a series of variations), in order to 
express, in lyrical terms, his concept of the role of love in the universe, 
as the force that unifies and spiritualizes beings. At the same time he 
has in mind the Beatrice of the 'Divine Comedy . As so often happens 
in Pere Teilhard 9 s writings, the phrase is extended to cover a variety of 
analogical meanings, from interatomic attraction, through human love, 
to love of God. 

At the time of writing Pere Teilhard was at Verzy (Marne) in the 
Rheims area. 



Ab initio creata sum 1 

When the world was born, I came into being. Before the 
centuries were made, I issued from the hand of God — half- 
formed, yet destined to grow in beauty from age to age, the 
handmaid of his work. 

Everything in the universe is made by union and generation — 
by the coming together of elements that seek out one another, 
melt together two by two, and are born again in a third. 

God instilled me into the initial multiple as a force of con- 
densation and concentration. 

In me is seen that side of beings by which they are joined as 
one, in me the fragrance that makes them hasten together and 
leads them, freely and passionately, along their road to unity. 

Through me, all things have their movement and are made to 
work as one. 

I am the beauty running through the world, to make it 
associate in ordered groups: the ideal held up before the world 
to make it ascend. 

I am the essential Feminine. 2 

In the beginning I was no more than a mist, rising and falling: 
I lay hidden beneath affinities that were as yet hardly conscious, 
beneath a loose and tenuous polarity. 

And yet I was already in existence. 

In the stirring of the layers of the cosmic substance, whose 
nascent folds contain the promise of worlds beyond number, the 
first traces of my countenance could be read. 

1 Eccl. 24: 14 where it is said of wisdom. 

2 In tliis first part, whose theme is taken from Proverbs 8:22-31, Pere Teil- 
hard presents love as a force of unification, a force that drives on to the reali- 
zation of an ideal. 

The Eternal Feminine 193 

Like a soul, still dormant but essential, I bestirred the original 
mass, almost without form, which hastened into my field of 
attraction; and I instilled even into the atoms, into the fathomless 
depths of the infinitesimal, a vague but obstinate yearning to 
emerge from the solitude of their nQthingness and to hold fast to 
something outside themselves. 

I was the bond that thus held together the foundations of the 

For every monad, be it never so humble, provided it is in very 
truth a centre of activity, obeys in its movement an embryo of 
love for me: 

The universal Feminine. 3 

With the coming of life, I began to be embodied in beings that 
had been chosen to be in a special way my image. 

Step by step, I became individualized. 

At first I was ill-defined and elusive, as though I could not make 
up my mind to be contained in a tangible form: 

But then, as souls became more ready to enter into a richer, 
deeper, more spiritualized union, I became more differentiated. 

And thus, patiently and in secret, was developed the archetype 
of bride and mother. 

During this transformation I did not surrender any of the lower 
charms that marked the successive phases of my appearance— just 
as the heart of the olive-tree holds firm and sound when, with 
each new spring, it grows green once more. 

I still held them within me, and taught them to bear the burden 
of a greater consciousness. Thus, as living beings approached 
greater perfection on earth, so (and yet always outdistancing 
their growth) I was able to stand before them, matching, circle for 
circle, the concentric zones of their desires, as the proper form of 
their beatitude. 

Follow with your eye the vast tremor that runs, from horizon 

to horizon, through city and forest. 
Observe, throughout all life, the human effervescence that works 
8 In this second part, the reference is to the forces of attraction, Qctive 

throughout the universe, in its physico-chemical elements. 

194 Writings in Time of War 

like leaven in the world — the song of the birds and their plumage 
— the wild hum of the insects — the tireless blooming of the 
flowers — the unremitting work of the cells — the endless labours 
of the seeds germinating in the soil. 

I am the single radiance by which all this is aroused and within 
which it is vibrant. 

Man, nature's synthesis, does many things with the fire that 
burns in his breast. He builds up power, he seeks for glory, he 
creates beauty, he weds himself to science. And often he does not 
realize that, under so many different forms, it is still the same 
passion that inspires him — purified, transformed, but living — the 
magnetism of the Feminine. 4 

It was within life that I began to unveil my face. 

But it was man who was the first to recognize me, in the dis- 
quiet my presence brought him. 

When a man loves a woman he thinks at first that his love is 
given simply to an individual like himself whom he envelops in 
his power and freely associates with himself. 

He is very conscious of a radiance, haloing my countenance, 
which sensitizes his heart and illuminates all things. 

But he attributes this radiation of my being to a subjective 
disposition of his entranced mind, or to a mere reflection of my 
beauty in nature's countless facets. 

Soon, however, he is astonished by the violence of the forces 
unleashed in him at my approach, and trembles to realize that he 
cannot be united with me without inevitably becoming enslaved 
to a universal work of creation. 

He thought that it was simply a partner who stood by his side: 
and now he sees that in me he meets the great hidden force, the 
mysterious latency, that has come to him in this form in order to 
lead him captive. 

For the man who has found me, the door to all things stands 
open. I extend my being into the soul of the world — not only 
through the medium of that man's own sensibility, but also 
through the physical links of my own nature — or rather, I am the 

4 In this passage, Pere Teilhard follows up the different stages of the 'tree of 
life* (cf. The Phenomenon of Man, p. 122) in all its various species. 

The Eternal Feminine 195 

magnetic force of the universal presence and the ceaseless ripple 
of its smile. 5 

I open the door to the whole heart of creation: I, the Gateway 
of the Earth, the Initiation. 

He who takes me, gives himself to me, and is himself taken by 
the universe. 6 

In the knowledge of me, alas, there is both good and evil. 

Man's initiation has proved too strong meat for him. 

When he saw that I was for him the universe, he thought to 
encompass me in his arms. 

He wished to shut himself up with me in a closed world for two, 
in which each would be sufficient to the other. 

At that very moment, I fell apart in his hands. 

And then it could have seemed as though I were the rock on 
which mankind foundered — the Temptress. 

Why, O men, why do you halt in the task of hard-won purifi- 
cation as a summons to which my beauty was made? 

I am essentially fruitful: that is to say my eyes are set on the 
future, on the Ideal. 

The moment you try to pin me down, to possess me in some 
complete form, you stifle me. 

What is more, you distort, you reverse — as you would a 
geometric pattern — my nature. 

Since the true balance of life forces you continually to ascend, 
you cannot set me up as a lifeless idol to cling to, without falling 
back; instead of becoming gods, you revert to matter. 

As soon as you fold your wings around me, you follow matter 
in its descent: for what drives matter down is the sterile union of 
its elements in which each neutralizes the other. 

What you are grasping is no more than matter: for matter is 
a tendency, a direction — it is the side of Spirit that we meet as we 
fall back. 

5 Cf. Aeschylus, Prometheus Vinctus 90: 'the unnumbered laughter of the 

• There is more in human love than two beings seeking to be made one. It 
entails, for them, contact with the whole of the universe and participation in 
the work of creation. 

196 Writings in Time of War 

And your fall accelerates at a terrifying speed — as fast as the 
widening of the gap between your real appetites and the ever 
lower forms in which you seek for me. 

And, when you, who are but dust, reach the term of your 
efforts, it is but dust that you embrace. 

The more, O men, you seek me in the direction of pleasure, 
the farther will you wander from my reality. 

The flesh, in truth, which operates as the pull of evil between 
you and the lower multiple (that reversed image of God) is no 
more than my inverted semblance, floating over an abyss of 
endless dissociation, that is, of endless corruption. 

For a long time man, lacking the skill to distinguish between the 
mirage and the truth, has not known whether he should fear me or 
worship me. 

He loved me for the magic of my charm and my sovereign 
power; he feared me as a force alien to himself, and for the 
bewildering riddle I presented. 

I was at once his strength and his weakness — his hope and his 
trial. It was in relation to me that the good were divided from 
the wicked. 

Indeed, had Christ not come, man m^ght well have placed me 
for ever in the camp of evil. 7 

7 The ambivalence of human love: we are summoned to follow matter in 
its ascent towards spirit, but, unhappily, we are only too prone to reverse our 
course and sink back towards matter. Such is the burden of sin in the un- 
redeemed universe. 

The Eternal Feminine 197 


Et usque adfuturum saeculum non desinam.* 

Christ has given me salvation and freedom. 

When he said: Melius est non nubere? men took it to mean that 
I was dead to eternal life. 

In truth, by those words he restored me to life, with Lazarus — 
with Magdalen — and set me between himself and men as a 
nimbus of glory: 

In making manifest that great virtue he defined, in fact, my 
true essence, and guided men, who had lost track of me, back to 
the true road I had trodden. 

In the regenerated world I am still, as I was at my birth, the 
summons to unity with the universe — the world's attractive 
power imprinted on human features. 

The true union, however, is the union that simplifies, and to 
simplify is to spiritualize. 

The true fertility is the fertility that brings beings together in 
the engendering of Spirit. 

If, in the new sphere into which created being entered, I was 
to remain Woman, I was obliged to change my form without 
impairing my former nature. 

While my deceptive image continues to lure the pleasure- 
seeker towards matter, my reality has risen aloft, drawing men to 
the heights: it floats between the Christian and his God. 

My charm can still draw men, but towards the light. I can still 
carry them with me, but into freedom. 

8 Ecclesiasticus 24: 14. 

9 Pere Teilhard's quotation is influenced by his recollection of the Pauline 
texts, Melius est enitn nubere quam uri (1 Cor. 7:9) and qui matrimonio jungit 
virginem suam, benefacit; et qui non jungit, melius facit (1 Cor. 7:38). 

198 Writings in Time of War 

Henceforth my name is Virginity. 10 

The Virgin is still woman and mother: in that we may read the 
sign of the new age. 

The pagans on the Acropolis blame the Gospel for having dis- 
figured the world, and they mourn for beauty. These men are 

Christ's message is not the signal for a rupture, for an emanci- 
pation: as though the elect of God, rejecting the law of the flesh, 
could break the bonds that tie them to the destiny of their 
race, and escape from the cosmic current in which they came to 

The man who hearkens to Christ's summons is not called upon 
to exile love from his heart. On the contrary, it is his duty to 
remain essentially a man. 

Thus he has an even greater need of me, to sensitize his powers, 
and arouse his soul to a passion for the divine. 

For the Saint, more than for any other man, I am the maternal 
shadow leaning over the cradle — and the radiant forms assumed 
by youth's dreams — and the deep-seated aspiration that passes 
through the heart like some undisputed alien force— the mark, in 
each individual being of Life's axis. 

Christ has left me all my jewels. 

In addition, however, he has sent down upon me from heaven 
a ray that has boundlessly idealized me. 11 

It seemed good to him, in the first place, to give a new zest to 
the natural impetus of my development. 

Faced by a mankind that never ceases to ascend, the part I have 
to play insists on my withdrawing to an ever higher level — held 
aloft, over the earth's growing ambition, as a lure and a prize — 
almost grasped, but never held. By its very nature, the Feminine 

10 In accordance with one of the fundamental data of the synthesis he 
was at this time beginning to construct, Pere Teilhard sees in true union a 
spiritualizing force. Christ s revelation has shown us that the higher form of 
love is virginity. 

u To idealize love is not to cut away its 'roots'. All that is best in the original 
impulse reappears in its higher forms. 

The Eternal Feminine 199 

must continue unremittingly to make itself progressively more 
felt in a universe that has not reached the term of its evolution: 
to ensure the final blossoming of my stock, will be the glory and 
bliss of chastity. 

Countless are the new essences handed over by nature, from 
age to age, to life ! 

Under the influence of Christianity, I shall combine, until 
creation is complete, their subtle and dangerous refinements in an 
ever-changing perfection which will embrace the aspirations of 
each new generation. 

Then, so long as the world endures, there will be seen reflected 
in the face of Beatrix the dreams of art and of science towards 
which each new century aspires. 

Since the beginning of all things, Woman has never ceased to 
take as her own the flower of all that was produced by the vitality 
of nature or the art of man. 

Who could say in what climax of perfections, both individual 
and cosmic, I shall blossom forth, in the evening of the world, 
before the face of God? 

I am the unfading beauty of the times to come — the ideal 
Feminine. 12 

The more, then, I become Feminine, the more immaterial and 
celestial will my countenance be. 

In me, the soul is at work to sublimate the body — Grace to 
divinize the soul. 

Those who wish to continue to possess me must change as I 


The centre of my attraction is imperceptibly shifting towards 
the pole upon which all the avenues of Spirit converge. 

The iridescence of my beauties, flung like a mantle over 
creation, is slowly gathering in its outlying folds. 

Already the shadow is falling upon the flesh, even die flesh 
purified by the sacraments. 

12 This evolution of love will continue as long as the world endures, prin- 
cipally under the influence of Christianity, which has not yet borne its full 

200 Writings in Time of War 

One day, maybe, it will swallow up even art, even science — 
things loved as a woman is loved. 

The beam circles: and we must follow it round. 

Soon only God will remain for you in a universe where all is 

It is God who awaits you in me ! 13 

Long before I drew you, I drew God towards me. 

Long before man had measured the extent of my power, 
and divinized the polarity of my attraction, the Lord had con- 
ceived me, whole and entire, in his wisdom, and I had won his 

Without the lure of my purity, think you, would God ever 
have come down, as flesh, to dwell in his creation? 

Only love has the power to move being. 

If God, then, was to be able to emerge from himself, he had 
first to lay a pathway of desire before his feet, he had to spread 
before him a sweet savour of beauty. 

It was then that he caused me to rise up, a luminous mist hang- 
ing over the abyss — between the earth and himself— that, in me, 
he might dwell among you. 

Now do you understand the secret of the emotion that 
possesses you when I come near? 

The tender compassion, the hallowed charm, that radiate from 
Woman — so naturally that it is only in her that you look for 
them, and yet so mysteriously that you cannot say whence they 
come — are the presence of God making itself felt and setting you 

Lying between God and the earth, as a zone of mutual attrac- 
tion, I draw them both together in a passionate union. 

— until the meeting takes place in me, in which the generation 
and plenitude of Christ are consummated throughout the 

I am the Church, the bride of Christ. 

18 The ideal term is a complete spiritualization of love and the total unifica- 
tion of its object. 

The Eternal Feminine 201 

I am Mary the Virgin, mother of all human kind. 14 

It might be thought that in this conjunction of heaven and 
earth I am destined to disappear as a useless handmaid, that I will 
have to vanish like a shadow before the reality. 

Those who love me should dismiss this fear. 

Just as participated being is not lost when it attains its principle 
— but, on the contrary, finds fulfilment in melting in God — 

Just as the soul, once it is formed, does not completely exclude 
the countless elements from which it emerged — but retains, as 
essential to it, a potency for and a need for flesh in which to con- 
tain itself 15 — 

So the Cosmos, when divinized, will not expel my magnetic 
influence by which the ever more complex and more simplified 
fascicle of its atoms is progressively more closely — and per- 
manently — knit — 

I shall subsist, entire, with all my past, even in the raptures of 
contact with God — 

What is more, I shall continue to disclose myself— as in- 
exhaustible in my development as the infinite beauties of which I 
am always, even if unseen, the raiment, the form, and the gate- 

When you think I am no longer with you — when you forget 
me, the air you breathe, the light with which you sec — then I 
shall still be at hand, lost in the sun I have drawn to myself. 

Blessed elect, you have only (think: is this not true?) to relax 
for one moment the tension that impels you towards God, or to 
let your glance fall the least distance short of the centre that 
enchants you, in order once again to see my image playing over 
the surface of the divine fire. 

14 It was the ideal love, the love of the Virgin— and that of the Church, too, 
of which the Virgin, in Christian tradition, is the perfect symbol — which drew 
God down to this world (the Fiat of the Incarnation; cf. Le Milieu Divin, p. 
125, Fontana, p. 134). Claudel has on more than one occasion given lyrical 
expression to this mystical unity of Mary and the Church. 

15 A strictly Thomist concept. It should be noted (to avoid an error in 
interpretation that some writers have fallen into when commenting on similar 
passages) that Pere Teilhard speaks not of the elements from which the soul is 
made, but of the elements 'from which it emerged*. 

202 Writings in Time of War 

— And at that moment you may see with wonder how there 
unfolds, in the long web of my charms, the ever-living series of 
allurements — of forces that one after another have made them- 
selves felt ever since the borderline of nothingness, and so brought 
together and assembled the elements of Spirit — through love. 

I am the Eternal Feminine. 16 

Verzy — 19-25 March 1918 

16 As they pass through each of their stages, the forces of love — the Eternal 
Feminine — are transformed, but they retain — in a purified form — something 
of each stage. Love will never disappear. 

The Priest 

On 26 May 1918, while on leave, Pere Teilhard made his religious 
profession in the chapel of the novitiate for his province, at Sainte-Foy- 
les-Lyon (where it had been established two years earlier, after the 
years of exile in England). Back at the front, in the area between 
Compiegne and Soissons, he wrote 'The Priest 9 , which he finished on 
July 8th. On the gth he wrote to his cousin, from the forest of Com- 

'Yesterday I sent you a notebook containing 'The Priest 9 (in the 
second part of the book, the pages at the beginning have been used for 
personal notes, more or less tentative, which I wont inflict on you). 
Tell me what you think of it. When I can get hold of a notebook, Vll 
make another copy for Pere Vulliez-Sermet and, of course, for 
Guiguite 9 . (Making of a Mind 9 , p. 212.) 

There are references again, in three other letters, to 'The Priest 9 . 
'Forest ofLaigue, 4 August: I 9 m writing from the same forest where, 
a month ago, I wrote The Priest 9 . 

Chavannes-sur-V£.tang (Haut-Rhin), 3 October 1918: 

'The day before yesterday I had a letter from Pere Chanteur in 
which he writes about 'The Priest 9 . Once again — and unlike Pere 
V.-S. — his reaction is primarily one of anxiety. He 9 s obviously 
afraid (though he writes most affectionately) of seeing me fall into 
pantheism . . . All the same, I 9 ve been anxious to let you know about 
this new warning Yve had, so that you too may not engage yourself in 
a situation that may prove rather hazardous — or at any rate delicate 9 
(Ibid, p. 244). 

204 Writings in Time of War 

Finally \ from Foussemagne (Haut-Rhin)> on October nth: 
'The different reactions of Pere Chanteur and Fere Vulliez-Sermet 
are more easily explained than you think I realize that the tricky part 
in my writings is not the blunt correction of formulas (easy enough to 
look after) but the inspiration behind them and the general tendency. 
Pray earnestly that it may always be the good spirit that animates me 9 
(Ibid, p. 254) * 

* (Making of a Mind, pp. 212, 244, 254.) Pere Vulliez-Sermet's spiritual 
insight gave him great authority both within and outside his order. Cf. Louis 
de Lavareille, S J., A YScole de saint Ignace et saint Frangois de Sales, RivirendPere 
Vulliez-Sermel, S.J., 1860-1924 (Lyons, 1944)- At that time Pere Chanteur was 
Provincial of the Lyons province. 


a: consecration 

Te igitur . . . 

Since today, Lord, I your Priest have neither bread nor wine nor 
altar, I shall spread my hands over the whole universe and take 
its immensity as the matter of my sacrifice. 1 

Is not the infinite circle of things the one final Host that it is 
your will to transmute? 

The seething cauldron in which the activities of all living and 
cosmic substance are brewed together — is not that the bitter cup 
that you seek to sanctify? 

There is a way of looking at the world that allows us to see in 
it only an aggregate of disparate or antagonistic elements. All 
around us, it would seem, there is nothing but incurable division 
and innate hostility. The worthless is everywhere mixed with the 
precious — the wheat grows side by side with the tares. On all 
sides we see what is good for nothing, mere trash and rubbish. 

You, my God, have given me the gift of discerning, beneath 
this surface incoherence, the living and deep-rooted unity that 
your grace has mercifully imposed on — instilled beneath — our 
hopeless plurality. 

You have allowed me to overcome the illusion of appearances 
so that now I cannot look at things without seeing, both before 
and after their fragmentation (more real than, and yet subsequent 
to their multiplicity), the welding of the substantial bond — the 
soul of desire that is already concentrating its essence. 

1 Cf. The beginning of The Mass on the World (1923) : 'Since once again, 
Lord — though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the steppes of 
Asia — I have neither bread nor wine nor altar . . .' {Hymn of the Universe, p. 19). 
To the Abbe Henri Breuil, from Tientsin, 30 Dec. 1923 : 'I have got down to a 
little writing again ... a new, quite different, version of "The Mass on the 
World" (or The Priest) which I wrote during the war — ad usum privatum, as it 
should be'. On 28 July 1918, three weeks after sending his cousin The Priest, 
he wrote to her: 'We're now resting, ... I can say Mass*. 

206 Writings in Time of War 

You have shown me the essential task of self-fulfilment in the 
plenitude of your incarnate word, 2 to which the world, through 
a chosen part of its whole being, is summoned. 

For the man whose eyes have been opened, a tense current no 
words can describe flows from the repose and the busyness of the 
creature. The variety and mobility of the beings we meet 
seems to atomize (so our senses tell us) the power of the world. 
When all these rivulets of love and desire come to the surface, 
flowing together in one common aspiration, how vast will be the 
torrent, how irresistible its shock ! 

The whole world is concentrated, is exalted, in expectation of 
union with God . . . and yet it is pulled up short by an impassable 
barrier. Nothing can attain Christ except he take it up and 
enfold it. 

Thus the universe groans, caught between its passionate desire 
and its impotence. 3 

Today, Lord, I can feel so strongly within me the cry of the 
weary multitude, seeking to win, in the divine, its right order and 
its repose. 

1 seem to hear, rising up from all creatures — both those that are 
imprisoned in inert matter, and those who are opening their eyes 
to the light of life, from those, too, who move and act in free- 
dom — the universal lament: 'Show your pity for us, O you our 

2 Cf. below, p. 214: \ . . Such is the Pleroma of the world and of Christ'; 
and p. 223 : '. . . to the whole cosmos of which you, Lord Jesus, are the pleni- 
tude . This is the Pauline concept of the Pleroma (Col. 1:19; 2:9), at least as 
understood by many exegetes. Thus Pierre Benoit, O.P. (Dictionnaire de la Bible, 
supplement, fasc. 36 (1961) col. 164) : 'It is legitimate, in this context, to take it 
as the pleroma . . . not only of the divine essence but also of the whole universe: 
both the Godhead and the cosmos being assumed through the medium of his 
body. By virtue of his Incarnation, crowned by the Resurrection, Christ, both 
God and Man, embraces in his plenitude not only God who is the source of 
salvation, not only men who are saved, but also the whole environment of 
man represented by the cosmos, including the angelic powers'. For a more 
detailed treatment, Pere Benoit refers the reader to the forthcoming article 

8 Two things are emphasized together: the creature's supernatural vocation 
and its inability to realize it by itself. The allusion in this sentence is to Rom. 
8:22: Omnis crcatura ingemiscit, Cf. 8:19: Exspectatio creaturae rcvclationem 
Jilbrum Dei exspectat. 

The Priest 207 

priest, and, if it be in your power, give us our fulfilment by 
giving us our God !' 

Who, then, will utter, over the formless mass of the world, the 
words that will give it one soul? 

What voice will overthrow the obstacle between God and 
creation which prevents this One from meeting with that other? 

Let creation repeat to itself again today, and tomorrow, and 
until the end of time, so long as the transformation has not run 
its full course, the divine saying: 'This is my body.' 

When Christ, carrying farther the process of his Incarnation, 
comes down into the bread in order to dwell there in its place, his 
action is not confined to the particle of matter that his Presence 
is at hand, for a moment, to etherealize. 

The transubstantiation is encircled by a halo of divinization — 
real, even though less intense — that extends to the whole universe. 

From the cosmic element into which he has entered, the Word 
is active to master and assimilate to himself all that still remains. 4 

Take up in your hands, Lord, and bless this universe that is 
destined to sustain and fulfil the plenitude of your being among 

Make this universe ready to be united with you: and that this 
may be so, intensify the magnetism that comes down from your 
heart to draw to it the dust of which we are made. 

When that moment comes, Almighty Father, I shall concen- 

4 Pere Teilhard returned on more than one occasion to this notion of the 'ex- 
tensions' of the Eucharist. He was careful, however, to make it clear that they 
are all completely 'dependent on the Eucharist', 'subject to the radiance of the 
consecrated host', 'under the influence of the host' (see below), etc. Cf. The 
Struggle against the Multitude (1917) : 'Through the magnetism of his love and 
the efficacy of the Eucharist, Jesus Christ gradually gathers within himself all 
the power of unity diffused through the Universe*. Le Milieu Divin, p. 113, 
Fontana,p. 123-4: 'When the priest says the words Hoc est corpus meant, they 
fall directly upon the bread and directly transform it into the individual reality 
of Christ. But the great sacramental operation does not cease at that local and 
momentary event.' Ibid. p. 115, Fontana, p. 126: 'Grant, O God, that when I 
draw near to the altar to communicate, I may henceforth discern the infinite 
perspectives hidden beneath the smallness and nearness of the Host in which 
you are concealed/ Again, in Le Christique (19 55): 'To the wondering gaze of 
the believer, it is the eucharistic mystery itself that is extended into infinity'. 
Cf. Hymn of the Universe, pp.46-50, The Monstrance. 

208 Writings in Time of War 

trate in myself all the aspiration that rises up towards you from 
these lower spheres — I shall feel the full force of the yearning that 
seeks expression in my words — I shall look beyond the white 
host, accepting its domination, and with all the strength of my 
desire and my prayer, with all my power, over every substance 
and every development, I shall pronounce the words: 
Hoc est corpus meum. 

The divine work is accomplished. 

Once again, through the priest, the formative power of the 
Word has come down upon the world, to overcome its nothing- 
ness, its wickedness, its futility, its disorder. 

All the immortal monads converge upon Christ — but each 
monad, in turn, is to some degree the centre of the entire 
Cosmos, resting upon and at the same time supporting its fabric. 

In virtue of this interconnexion, from which nothing is ex- 
cluded, the whole of nature vibrates to the radiation of the 
consecrated Host. Every single atom, no matter how humble or 
imperfect it be, must co-operate, at least through what it repels 
or reflects, in the fulfilment of Christ. Every particle, every 
process, must, through some part of itself, appear in the definitive 
reality of Christ. 

Thus, when I spoke those words, an organic unity, underlying 
every substance, was introduced into the isolated elements of 
nature. Superimposed upon all visible activity, a dominating 
force now guides individual movements in accordance with a 
higher plan. 

The figure of Christ emerges: it takes on definition in the midst 
of our nebula of participated beings and secondary causes. 

The universe assumes the form of Christ — but, O mystery ! 
the man we see is Christ crucified. 6 

6 Cf. letter of 30 July 191 8: 'There's a prayer I'm fond of saying now, 
because it sums up what I mean: "Jesu, sis mihi mundus verus" — may all that 
is elect in the world be to me a channel for your influence, and be increasingly 
transformed, through my efforts, into you. (Making of a Mind, p. 223) The 
same idea reappears in Forma Christi, towards the end of this same year, 191 8 : 
'Around the radiant sun of love that has come to light up the world, there 
reaches out into infinity a "corona", seldom seen and yet the seat of the en- 
compassing and unifying activity of the incarnate Word/ 

The Priest 209 

The sacramental bread is made out of grains of wheat which 
have been pressed out and ground in the mill: and the dough has 
been slowly kneaded. Your hands, Jesus, have broken the bread 
before they hallow it. 

Who shall describe, Lord, the violence suffered by the universe 
from the moment it falls under your sovereign power. 

Christ is the goad that urges creatures along the road of effort, 
of elevation, of development. 

He is the sword that mercilessly cuts away such of the body's 
members as are unworthy or decayed. 6 

He is that mightier life that inexorably brings death to our 
base egoisms in order to draw into itself all our capacities for 

That Christ may enter deeply into us we need alternately the 
work that widens our being and the sorrow that brings death to 
it, the life that makes a man greater in order that he may be 
sanctifiable and the death that makes him less in order that he 
may be sanctified. 

The universe is rent asunder; it suffers a painful cleavage at the 
heart of each of its monads, as the flesh of Christ is born and 
grows. Like the work of creation which it redeems and sur- 
passes, the Incarnation, so desired of man, is an awe-inspiring 
operation. It is achieved through blood. 

May the blood of the Lord Jesus — the blood which is 
infused into creatures and the blood which is shed and spread out 
over all, the blood of endeavour and the blood of renouncement 
— mingle with the pain of the world. 

8 Cf. below, p. 214, where there is another reference to damnation. Le 
Milieu Divin, p. 148, Fontana, pp. 146-7: 'The total divine milieu is formed by 
the incorporation of every elect spirit in Jesus Christ. But to say "elect" is to 
imply a choice, a selection ... It is precisely because Christ is the one who 
unites that he is also the one who selects, who separates and judges. The 
Gospel speaks of the good seed . . . but there are also the tares, the goats, the 
left hand of the Judge, the closed door, the outer darkness; and at the antipodes 
of the fire that unites in love there is the fire that destroys in isolation. The 
whole process from which the new earth is gradually born is an aggregation 
underlaid by a segregation. Cf. Ibid. p. 148, Fontana, pp. 150-1: \ . . whether 
within Christ ot without Christ (but always under the influence of 

210 Writings in Time of War 

Hie est calix sanguinis mei. 7 

b: adoration 

Unde et memores . . . 

Like ail inner flame — sometimes free, live, and luminous, at 
others obscured but still burning beneath the ashes it throws off— 
the Divine now lights up all things for me from within. 

Permeating the whole atmosphere of creation, God encom- 
passes me and lays siege to me. 

I kneel, Lord, before the universe that has imperceptibly, under 
the influence of the Host, become your adorable Body and your 
divine blood. 

I prostrate myself in its presence, or better — much better — I 
recollect myself in that universe. 

The world is filled by You! 

O universal Christ, true foundation of the world, you who find 
your consummation in the fulfilment of all that your power has 
raised up from nothingness, I worship you, and am lost in the 
consciousness of your plenitude permeating all things. 

We do not give you, my God, this plenitude, like parts that 
are added together to make a total: it is we who submit to it. 

Your life is so much stronger than ours that it dominates us, 
absorbs us, and assimilates us to itself. 8 

7 The whole of this section elaborates the symbolism of the bread and wine: 
work-suffering; life-death; joy-pain. Cf. 26th August 1923: 'I keep develop- 
ing, and slightly improving, with the help of prayer, my "Mass upon things". 
It seems to me that in a sense the true substance to be consecrated each day is 
the world's development during that day — the bread symbolizing appropri- 
ately what creation succeeds in producing, the wine (Mood) what creation 
causes to be lost in exhaustion and suffering in the course of its effort/ (Letters 
from a Traveller, p. 86.) 

8 A well-known Augustinian notion: Panis sumfortium, nee tu me mutabis in te, 
std tu mutaberis in me. See also below, p. 214, 'had I ever imagined that it was 
I . . .' etc. There is a similar thought, in connexion with death, in Le Milieu 
Divin, p. 70, Fontana, p. 90: 'You are the irresistible and vivifying iorce, O 
Lord, and because yours is the energy, because of the two of us, you are infin- 
itely the stronger, it is to you that falls the part of consuming me in the union 
that should weld us together'. 

The Priest 211 

We are not the elements whose coming together constitutes 
you, but the fuel that feeds your fires. 

It is not our development that brings about your consumma- 
tion — rather is it your consummation that effects our fulfilment. 

And nevertheless, Master, it remains true that we are the 
foundation necessary to your existence. 

When you make us your own, you do not annihilate us, but 
jealously preserve all that is best in our natural qualities, in order 
to make of it the axis, the kernel, the support, of your growth. 
Under your action — which transforms and does not destroy — all 
that is good in us passes, for all eternity, into the perfection of 
your Body. 

That is why I can henceforth, without quitting You, live and 
work in the fulness of beatitude. 

You, Jesus, 9 are the epitome and the crown of all perfection, 
human and cosmic. No flash of beauty, no enchantment of good- 
ness, no clement of force, but finds in you its ultimate refinement 
and consummation. To possess you is indeed to hold gathered 
into a single object the perfect assemblage of all that the universe 
can give us or make us dream of. The unique fragrance of the 
glory and wonder of your being has so effectively drawn from 
the earth and synthesized all the most exquisite savours that the 
earth contains or can suggest that now we can find them, end- 
lessly, one after another according to our desires, in you — you 
the Bread that 'holds within it every delight'. 10 

You who are yourself the plenitudo Entis creati, the fulness of 
created being, you, Jesus, are also the plenitudo entis mei, the ful- 
ness of my own personal being, and of all living creatures who 
accept your dominion. In you, and in you alone, as in a bound- 
less abyss, our powers can launch forth into activity and relax 
their tensions, can show their full capacity — without being 
checked by any limitation — can plunge into love and into self- 

9 As in The Mystical Milieu and elsewhere, Pere Teilhard delights in repeating 
the name Jesus. There are other instances later in this essay. Cf. p. 223 : 
'Lord Jesus.' 

10 The reference is to the words of the liturgy, taken from Scripture: Pattern 
ie caelo praestitisti eis—Omne delectamentum in se habentem. 

212 Writings in Time of War 

surrender with the certainty that your deep waters are free from 
the reef of imperfection, the shoals of meanness, the current of 

By you, and you alone, who are the entire and proper object 
of our love and the creative energy that fathoms the secrets of 
our hearts and the mystery of our growth, our souls are awakened, 
sensitized, enlarged, to the utmost limit of their latent poten- 

And under your influence, and yours alone, the integument of 
organic isolation and wilful egoism which separates the monads 
from one another is torn asunder and dissolves, and the multitude 
of souls rushes on towards that union which is essential to the 
maturity of the world. 

Thus a third plenitude is added to the odier two. In a very real 
sense, Lord Jesus, you are the plenitudo entium, the full assemblage 
of all beings who shelter, and meet, and are for ever united, 
within the mystical bonds of your body. In your breast, my 
God, better than in any embrace, I possess all those whom I love 
and who are illumined by your beauty and in turn illumine you 
with the rays of light (so powerful in their effect upon our hearts) 
which they receive from you and send back to you. That multi- 
tude of beings, so daunting in its magnitude, that I long to help, 
to enlighten, to lead to you: it is already there, Lord, gathered 
together within you. Through you I can reach into the inmost 
depths of every being and endow them with whatever I will — 
provided that I know how to ask you and that you permit it. u 

In this higher, mystical, climate suddenly disclosed to me by 

11 This is the classic teaching: God, who is 'his own being* is at the same 
time 'the being of all'. Pseudo-Dionysius, The Hierarchy of Heaven, IV. I 
P.G.3, 177-8). Though incomprehensible and unattainable, he is at the same 
time intimately close. As principle and root of every creature', he is the 
Being who is eminently present. Cf. St Bernard, De consider atione, bk. 5, ch. 6, 
n. 13 : 'Quid item Deus? — Sine quo, nihil est. Tarn nihil esse sine ipso, quant nee 
ipse sine se potest. Ipse sibi, ipse omnibus est. Ac per hoc quodammodo ipse solus est, 
qui suum ipsius est et omnium esse. — 'What, again is God? — without whom 
nothing exists. As nothing can be without him, so he cannot be without 
himself. He exists for himself, and for all. And thus he who is at once his own 
being and the being of all, in some way alone exists.' (P.L. 182, 796A; Opera, 
cd. Jean Leclercq, vol. 3, 1963, p. 477). Cf. In Cantica sermo 4, n. 4 (P.L. 183, 
708 AB; Opera, vol. 1, 1957, p. 23). 

The Priest 213 

the consecration, the most diametrically opposed attributes meet 
and are combined in a perfection that oversteps the boundaries of 
our experience. 

Our attachment to the legitimate allurements the earth offers 
us grows greater by being directed to an ever greater end (by 
which I mean the Body of Christ, the sole essential term of all 
created effort) : thus it leaves behind all personal self-seeking and 
becomes identified with a rigorous spirit of detachment. 12 

By closing in upon the common centre of things, each accord- 
ing to its particular nature, the elements fall into a unity that 
absorbs them as it consummates them. The pains they take to 
differentiate themselves are in reality the measure and the instru- 
ment of their ultimate identification. 

By growing less in Christojesu, those who mortify themselves, 
who suffer, and grow old, with patience, cross the critical 
threshold at which death is turned into life. By forget- 
ting themselves, they find themselves again, never more to be 
lost. 13 

Christ is loved as a person: he compels recognition as a world. 14 

Of Christ's self-fulfilment there can be no doubt. He is im- 
mune from suffering. He has already risen from the dead. And 
yet we, who are his members, must continue, in humility and 
fear, in the excitement of danger, to work for the fulfilment of 
an element that the mystical Body can obtain only from us. Our 
peace of mind is underlaid by the exaltation of creating, in the 
midst of such hazards, an everlasting work that could not exist 

12 Cf. Forma Christi, below p. 262m 'The effort of spiritual attachment to the 
natural universe is vitally essential; and it imposes a rigorous austerity on the 
souls of the faithful/ Ibid. pp. 261-2: 'Very often (in fact generally) the two 
phases of attachment and detachment are fused together in the concrete reality 
(the psychological unity) of a single disinterested effort. When man works to 
develop himself for God (to have a greater capacity for God), at the same time 
and by the same act his soul is personalized in se and depersonalized in Christo.* 

13 This teaching is set out at greater length in Part 2 of Le Milieu Divin: 'The 
divinization of our passivities'. See also La Signification et la valeur constructrice 
de la suffrance (1933) (Oeuvres vol. 6) and VEnergie spirituelle de la souffrance 
(195 1), (Oeuvres, vol. 7). 

14 A typically Teilhardian phrase: it expresses the Pauline concept of the 

214 Writings in Time of War 

without us. Our confidence in God is inspired and toughened by 
the human passion to conquer the world. 15 

Life and death, unity and plurality, element and totality, 
possession and quest, being and becoming . . . such is the Pleroma 
of the world and of Christ. 

Sin alone is excluded. And yet, since to be damned is not to be 
annihilated, who can say what mysterious complement may not 
be added to the body of the Christ by that immortal loss? 

Per quern omnia creas, vivificas, sanctificas . . . in Eo vivimus et 
movemur et sumus. 16 


Panem caelestem accipiam . . . 

Just as, when I turn my mind and reason to things that lie outside 
me, I have no right to dissociate myself from their destiny — so I 
cannot, in my personal being, escape from the Divine, whose 
dominating power I can see growing ever more supreme 
wherever I look. 

Even had I ever imagined that it was I who held the conse- 
crated Bread and gave myself its nourishment, I now see with 

16 This paragraph expresses both the assurance the Christian derives from his 
faith and his hope — since the risen Christ is the final victor — and the conscious- 
ness of the risk that threatens everything that has not yet been integrated into 
the mystical Body of Christ. The original emphasis that characterizes in this 
passage the twofold awareness in the Christian is that the feeling of risk itself 
contains a double element: a humble fear — and the excitement and enthusiasm 
aroused by the prospect of danger. 

16 It is thus that on several occasions Pere Teilhard applies St Paul's words 
about the immensity of God. He is justified in so doing, in the. light of the 
teaching of St Paul, and of tradition, on the cosmic function of the risen 
Christ. Cf. above, note 2. See also, for example, Bcrulle, Discours de Vitat et 
des grandeurs de Jisus, discours 2: 'The earth of our human race, living in 
Jesus Christ ... is a new centre of the universe towards which every spiritual 
and physical creature tends'. (5th ed. 1639, pp. 152-3). La Vie dejisus, 1, n.21 : 
'Heaven and Earth, grace and nature, look towards you and tend towards you 
as to their whole and their centre'. (3rd ed. 1630, p. 29.) Cf. Cosmic Life (191 6), 
conclusion, 'Jesus, the centre towards which all things are moving' (above, 
p. 70). 

The Priest 215 

blinding clarity that it is the Bread that takes hold of me and 
draws me to itself. 

That small, seemingly lifeless, Host has become for me as vast 
as the world, as insatiable as a furnace. I am encircled by its 
power. It seeks to close around me. 

An inexhaustible and universal communion is the term of the 
universal consecration. 

I cannot, Lord, evade such massive power: I can only yield to 
it in blissful surrender. 

And first, my God, I entrust myself to the generalized forces of 
matter, of life, of grace. The ocean of energies that our weakness 
cannot control: upon which we drift — hardly conscious of our 
heading, hardly able to change our course — this has now become 
for me the comforting mantle of your creative action. That part 
of us which is in nobis sine nobis — in me, so large a part that my 
freedom seems to be lost in it — I can feel warm, animated, 
charged with the organizing virtue of your body, Jesus. 

In everything in me that has subsistence and resonance, in 
everything that enlarges me from within, that arouses me, 
attracts me, or wounds me from without, it is you, Lord, who 
are at work upon me — it is you who mould and spiritualize my 
formless clay — you that change me into yourself. 

To take possession of me, my God, you who are more remote 
than all and deeper than all, you take to yourself and unite 
together the immensity of the world and the intimate depths of 

I can feel that all the strain and struggle of the universe reaches 
down into the most hidden places of my being. 17 

But, Lord, I do not passively give way to these blessed passivi- 
ties: I offer myself to them, actively, and do all I can to promote 

I know how the life-giving power of the host can be blocked 

17 The threefold idea presented in this section should be noted. 1 : the great 
part played by passivities. 2: the transformation of all things effected by faith, 
which sees the hand of God everywhere. (Cf. Forma Cnristi, C; Le Milieu 
Divin, pp. 135-6; etc.). 3: the transcendence and immanence of God, more 
distant than all, and lying deeper than all. (Cf. VEnergie humaine 1937, in 
Oeuvres, vol. 6 p. 183). 

2i 6 Writings in Time of War 

by our freedom of will. If I seal up the entry into my heart I 
must dwell in darkness — and not only I — my individual soul — 
but the whole universe in so far as its activity sustains my 
organism and awakens my consciousness, and in so far also as I 
act upon it in my turn to draw forth from it the materials of 
sensation, of ideas, of moral goodness, of holiness of life. But 
if, on the other hand, my heart is open to you> then at once through 
the pure intent of my will 18 the divine must flood into the 
universe, in so far as the universe is centred on me. Since, by 
virtue of my consent, I shall have become a living particle of the 
Body of Christ, all that affects me must in the end help on the 
growth of the total Christ. Christ will flood into and over me, 
me and my cosmos. 

How I long, Lord Christ, for this to be ! 

May my acceptance be ever more complete, more compre- 
hensive, more intense ! 

May my being, in its self-offering to you, become ever more 
open and more transparent to your influence ! 

And may I thus feel your activity coming ever closer, your 
presence growing ever more intense, everywhere around me. 

Fiat, fiat. 

In order to assist your action in me through all things, I shall 
do more than make myself receptive and offer myself to the 
passivities of life. I shall faithfully associate myself with the work 
you effect in my body and my soul. I shall strive to obey and 
anticipate your least promptings. My dearest wish, Master, is 
that I might offer so little resistance to you that you could no 
longer distinguish me from yourself— so perfectly would we be 
united, in a communion of will. 19 

18 Later, in Le Milieu Divin, Pere Teilhard re-emphasized the necessity for 
the 'pure intent of the will' (p. 133), *There is no limit,' he says again, 'in respect 
of the intention which animates our endeavour to act or to accept, because we 
can always go farther in the inward perfecting of our conformity. There can 
always be greater detachment and greater love* (pp. 138-9). Cf. note 20, and 
letters from Pere Teilhard to Pere Auguste Valensin, in Archives de philosophic, 

19 It will be noted that the strongest form of union Pere Teilhard has in 
mind here is 'communion of will\ We find the same in St Bernard and St 

The Priest 217 

And yet, Lord, you look to me for even more than this perfect 
docility. It would not, you see, exhaust the positive richness of 
my activity. It would affect only the formal — not the material — 
aspect of my work: and it is the whole of my being, Lord Jesus, 
that you would have me give you, tree and fruit alike, the 
finished work as well as the harnessed power, the opus together 
with the operatio. 20 To allay your hunger and quench your 
thirst, to nourish your body and bring it to its full stature, you 
need to find in us a substance which will be truly food for you. 
And this food ready to be transformed into you, this nourishment 
for your flesh, I will prepare for you by liberating the spirit in 
myself and in everything : 

Through an effort (even a purely natural effort) to learn the 
truth, to live the good, to create the beautiful; 

Through cutting away all inferior and evil energies; 

Through practising that charity towards men which alone can 
gather up the multitude into a single soul. . . . 

To promote, in however small a degree, the awakening of spirit 
in the world, is to offer to the incarnate Word an increase of reality 
and consistence: it is to allow his influence to increase in intensity 
around us. 

And this means but one thing, Lord; that through the whole 
width and breadth of the Real, through all its past and through all 
that it will become, through all that I undergo and all that I do, 

Ignatius Loyola. Cf. St Bernard, De Diligendo Deo, C. 15, n. 39 (Opera, vol. 3, 
1963. p. 153), etc., where he shows that the union of will is the realization of 
the 'unus spiritus' of which St Paul speaks in 1 Cor. 6:17. 

20 Pere Teilhard holds that the intention contained in the operatio (the act) is 
not sufficient, and that it may even become distorted if it does not extend to 
the opus (the work) which should normally be its fruit. Cf. Le Milieu Divin, 
p. 55 : 'It is certainly a very great thing to be able to think that, if we love God, 
something of our inner activity, of our operatio, will never be lost. But will 
not the work itself of our minds, of our hearts, and of our hands — that is to 
say, our achievements, what we bring into being, our opus — will not this, too, 
in some sense be "eternalized" and saved?' And p. 60: 'Every man, in the 
course of his life, must not only show himself obedient and docile. By his 
fidelity, he must build — starting with the most natural territory of his own self 
— a work, an opus 9 . 

21 8 Writings in Time of War 

through all that I am bound by, through every enterprise, 
through my whole life's work, I can make my way to you, be 
one with you, and progress endlessly in that union. 

With a fulness no man has conceived you realized, through 
your Incarnation, love's threefold dream: to be so enveloped in 
the object of love as to be absorbed in it— endlessly to intensify 
its presence — and, without ever knowing surfeit, to be lost in it. 

I pray that Christ's influence, spiritually substantial, physically 
mortifying, may ever spread wider among all beings, and that 
thence it may pour down upon me and bring me life. 

I pray that this brief and limited contact with the sacramental 
species may introduce me to a universal and eternal communion 
with Christ, with his omni-operant will and his boundless 
mystical Body. 

Corpus, sanguis Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodiant animam 
meant in vitam aeternam. Amen. 

d: the apostolate 

Quid retribuam Domino . . . 

And now, my God, that in and through all things you have 
made me one with you, I no longer belong to myself. 

In obedience to the law that governs every plenitude in a 
universe that is still multiple and exteriorized [diffuse], I must — as 
must the adult life and the blazing torch — spread abroad the fire 
you have imparted to me. 21 

In a light that consistently grows brighter, you show me ever 
more clearly your Body — your personal and sacramental Body 
— enveloped in a 'corona' of living dust, as vast as the world: 
and I see how, under the spiritualizing current that flows from 
you, the elect portion of this dust concentrates with you as its 
focus, while what is left is expelled to roam the highways of the 
night. 22 

21 Fire: see note 28 to The Mystical Milieu. 

22 Another reference to damnation. We find the same metaphor, more 
soberly expressed, in The Monstrance (in Hymn of the Universe). 

The Priest 219 

I see your flesh extend throughout the entire universe, there to 
be mingled with it and so extract from it all the elements that can 
be made to serve your purpose. There is not a single atom that 
does not pay tribute to your totality, even though that be the 
prelude to its own destruction. 

I realize at last that the totality of all perfections is the necessary 
basis for that ultimate mystical organism which you are con- 
structing out of all things. You do not destroy, Lord, the beings 
you adopt for your building; but you transform them, while 
preserving everything good that centuries of creation have 
fashioned in them. 23 

=The universality of your divine attraction, and the intrinsic 
value of our human activity — I am on fire, Lord, to make known 
to all this twofold truth you have revealed to me, and to make it 

Every priest, because he is a priest, has given his life to a work 
of universal salvation. If he is conscious of his dignity, he must no 
longer live for himself but for the world, as he lived whose 
anointed representative the priest is. 

I feel, Jesus, that this duty has a more immediate urgency for 
me, and a more exact meaning, than it has for many others — far 
better men, too, than I. 

Your call has innumerable different shades of emphasis: each 
vocation is essentially different from the rest. 

The various regions, nations, social groupings, have each their 
particular apostles. 

And I, Lord, for my (very lowly) part, would wish to be the 
apostle — and, if I dare be so bold — the evangelist — of your Christ 
in the universe. 

Through my thinking, through the message I bring, through 
the practical activity of my whole life, I would wish to disclose 
and make known to men the bonds of continuity that make the 
cosmos of our restless ferment into an ambience that is divinized 
by the Incarnation, that divinizes by communion, and that is 
divinizable by our co-operation. 

83 This section brings out simultaneously the distinction between nature and 
the supernatural, and their oneness. 

220 Writings in Time of War 

To bring Christ, by virtue of a specifically organic connexion, to the 
heart of realities that are esteemed to be the most dangerous, the most 
unspiritual, the most pagan — in that you have my gospel and my 

If men could only see that in each one of them there is an 
element of the Pleroma, would not that, Lord, effect the re- 
conciliation between God and our age? If only they could 
understand that, with all its natural richness and its massive 
reality, the universe can find fulfilment only in Christ; and that 
Christ, in turn, can be attained only through a universe that has 
been carried to the very limit of its capabilities. 24 

To those who are seduced by the treasure-house of the Real 
and overcome by its immediacy — to these I would show the life 
of the Lord Jesus flowing through all things — the true soul of the 

To those who are dazzled by the nobility of human endeavour, 
I would say, in the name of Christ, that man's work is sacred, 
sacred both in the submission of the will to God, and in the 
great task it accomplishes in the course of endless tentative efforts 
— and that task is the liberation, natural and supernatural, of 

To those who are indolent, unenterprising, infantile, or narrow- 
minded in their religious attitude, I would point out that man's 
development is essential to Christ for the formation of his Body, 
and that a constant spirit of enquiry directed towards the world and 
truth is an absolute duty. 25 

If you judge me worthy, Lord, I would show to those whose 
lives are dull and drab the limitless horizon opening out to 

24 The whole of this passage brings out Pere Teilhard's awareness of the 
special character of his vocation, and also the apostolic importance he attached 
to it. On the fourth day of his annual retreat in 1940, meditating on the 
mystery of the Epiphany, he noted: 'Epiphany. Stella: Jesus-Maria. Grace: to 
follow my light — a special vocation. 

25 Pere Teilhard often refers to this duty of research understood in the 
widest and most profound sense. Cf. references in The Religion of Teilhard 
de Chardin, pp. 26-7. At the same time he pointed out the danger of a certain 
'mystique of research', that claims to be self-sufficient: Reflexions sur le bonheur 
(1943), in Cahiers Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, No. 2, p. 69. 

The Priest 221 

humble and hidden efforts; for these efforts, if pure in intention, 
can add to the extension of the incarnate Word a further element 
— an element known to Christ's heart and gathered up into his 
immortality. 26 

I shall remind those who are successful and fortunate that their 
success has an infinitely wider import than the satisfaction of their 
petty personality. They can, and indeed should, rejoice — but in 
Christ, whose plenitude calls for a certain completeness in their 
nature. And I shall teach these, even as they rejoice, to dis- 
tinguish, side by side with the egoism that is centred on self, and 
the sensual appetite that relishes the pleasant, a force drawn from 
well-being and the widening of one's nature that can be added, 
in God, to their spiritual activity. 

And above all, I shall remind those who suffer and mourn that 
the most direct way of making our life useful is to allow God, in 
his own good time, to grow within us, and, through death, to 
substitute himself for us. 27 

You know, my God, that I can now scarcely discern in the 
world the lineaments of its multiplicity, 28 for when I gaze at it I 
see it chiefly as a limitless reservoir in which the two contrary 
energies of joy and suffering are accumulating in vast quantities 
— and for the most part lying unused. 

And I see how through this restless wavering mass there pass 
powerful psychic currents made up of souls who are carried away 
by a passion for art, for the Eternal Feminine, for science and the 

26 Pere Tedlhard is not forgetting non-scientists, nor overlooking the value 
of 'pure intention'. The same applies to Le Milieu Divin, which puts forward 
a spiritual teaching adapted to every Christian. See also below, pp. 258-9. 

27 See above, note 13. Pere Teilhard's thoughts constantly return to death. 
Cf. Le Milieu Divin, p. 100: 'For all of them, in any event, the road ends 
at the same point: the final stripping off of the old by death which accom- 
panies the recasting, and is a prelude to the final incorporation in Christo 

28 We find the same thought in Note on the Universal Element (appendix to 
Forma Christi) : 'the man to whom it is given to see Christ as more real than any 
other reality in the world, he truly lives in a zone undisturbed by any multi- 
plicity . . .' Cf. letter of 24 December 191 5, referring to 'the blessed oneness 
of God, in which all things and all persons are achieved, with absolute certainty 
and pernlanence , (Making of a Mind, p. 84). 

222 Writings in Time of War 

mastery of the universe, for the autonomy of the individual, for 
freedom of mankind. 

From time to time these currents collide with one another in 
formidable crises which cause them to seethe and foam in their 
efforts to establish their equilibrium. 

What glory it were for you, my God, and what an affluence 
of life to your humanity, could all this spiritual power be har- 
monized in you ! 

Lord, to see drawn from so much wealth, lying idle or put to 
base uses, all the dynamism that is locked up within it: this is my 
dream. And to share in bringing this about: this is the work to 
which I would dedicate myself. 

As far as my strength will allow me, because I am a priest, I 
would henceforth be the first to become aware of what the 
world loves, pursues, suffers. I would be the first to seek, to 
sympathize, to toil: the first in self-fulfilment, the first in self- 
denial — I would be more widely human in my sympathies and 
more nobly terrestrial in my ambitions than any of the world's 

On the one hand I want to plunge into the midst of created 
things, and mingling with them, seize hold upon and disengage 
from them all that they contain of life eternal, down to the very 
last fragment, so that nothing may be lost; and on the other hand 
I want, by practising the counsels of perfection, to salvage 
through self-denial all the heavenly fire imprisoned within the 
threefold concupiscence of the flesh, of avarice, of pride: in other 
words, to hallow, through chastity, poverty and obedience, the 
power enclosed in love, in gold, in independence. 

That is why I have taken on my vows and my priesthood (and 
it is this that gives me my strength and my happiness), in a 
determination to accept and divinize the powers of the earth. 29 

It was only a moment ago, my God, that I offered up my 
sacrifice 'upon all things'. And, in very truth, my yearning and 

20 Pere Teilhard has in mind both ordination to the priesthood and pro- 
fession in religion, the thought of which was the inspiration of this essay. It is 
a twofold epitome of the apologetical method and spiritual dialectic that are 
characteristic of his thought. Under the action of Christ, all things are weighed 
so that he may gather to himself the 'chosen part*. 

The Priest 223 

my prayer then reached out to the whole cosmos, of which you, 
Lord Jesus, are the plenitude. 

Nothing was excluded from the intention in my mind: and 
yet my eyes were turned above all to the grim battle-area where 
men, so close to me, have for four years been fighting and 
slaughtering one another. 

Was there ever, my God, a humanity more like, in the shedding 
of its blood, to a sacrificed victim — more ready, in its ferment, to 
receive creative transformation — more rich, in what it unleashes, 
in energy that can be sanctified — more close, in its agony, to the 
supreme communion? 

I speak to you, my fellow-priests, who share the battle: if 
there be any among you who are at a loss in so unforeseen a 
situation — with your mass unsaid and your ministry unaccom- 
plished — remember that over and above the administration of the 
sacraments, as a higher duty than the care of individual souls, you 
have a universal function to fulfil: the offering to God of the 
entire world. 

Going far beyond the bread and wine the Church has put in 
your hand, your influence is destined to extend to the immense 
host of mankind, waiting for him to come who will sanctify it. 

You have the power — through your ordination — in a real way 
to consecrate into the flesh and blood of Christ the sufferings you 
see on all sides, and in which your priestly character makes it your 
duty to share. 

You are the leaven spread by providence throughout the battle- 
field, so that, by your mere presence, the huge mass of our toil and 
agony may be transformed. 

Never have you been more priests than you are now, involved 
as you are and submerged in the tears and blood of a generation 
— never have you been more active — never more fully in the line 
of your vocation. 

I thank you, my God, in that you have made me a priest — and 
a priest ordained for War. 

I am so conscious of my weakness, Lord, that I do not dare to 
ask you to allow me to share in this bliss. But I see it none the less 
clearly: and I shall proclaim: 

224 Writings in Time of War 

'Happy arc those among us who, in these decisive days of the 
creation and redemption, have been chosen for this supreme act, 
the logical crowning of their priesthood: to be in communion, 
even unto death, with the Christ who is being born and suffering 
in the human race/ 

8th July 1918™ 

30 Cf. p. 203. 

Operative Faith 

We find the first direct reference to the theme of 'Operative Faith 9 in 
letters that Pere Teilhard wrote [on the 17 August igi8, and again on 
the 28th and 31st) to his cousin from the forest ofLaigue, in the Oise. 

In another letter, from Moyvillers (Oise), dated September 12th, he 
writes at greater length on the same subject, outlining a definite plan for 
the essay, but adding: 'My thought is feeling its way, and once again 
Vm trying to clarify it by talking it over with you. ('Making of a 
Mind 9 , pp. 228, 230, 232, 236) 

On September 27th, again, writing from Chavannes-sur-l 9 Etang, 
near Montreux-Vieux in Alsace (in the Dannemarie district) he says 
that he is 'rather absorbed in writing and copying out "Operative 
Faith 99 \ The manuscript was sent off to his cousin the next day, the 
28th, and on the 2gth he wrote again: 

'Yesterday I sent you . . . my latest essay. I 9 m rather beginning to 
wonder whether I shouldn't, once again, offer it to Leonce with a view 
to publication (in "Recherches 99 for example). I feel that my own too 
individual ideas are represented in it only by that side of them that is 
generally applicable and certainly sound — in a form that minds in 
sympathy with mine will recognize as their own thought, without 
others taking alarm. But once again, I 9 ve become so accustomed to 
living "in my own-universe 99 that I haven t much idea of what's strange 
or familiar to others. You must tell me what you think 9 (pp. 240-1, 
cf p. 238). 

We do not know Marguerite Teillard 9 s reaction, nor whether the 
manuscript was in fact sent to Pere de Grandmaison for publication in 
the 'Recherches de science religieuse 9 . 



. . . And Peter answered him, 'Lord, if it is you, bid me come 
to you on the water*. He said, 'Come'. So Peter got out of the 
boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he 
saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 
'Lord, save me\ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and 
caught him, saying to him, 'O man of little faith, why did you 
doubt?' 1 

Fides substantia sperandarum return (Hebrews) 

a: fear of the future 

It is with reluctance that we allow our thoughts to dwell upon 
the future. 

Like nervous passengers in a ship or an aircraft who turn their 
eyes away from the ever-moving emptiness of sea or air, we 
generally shun the prospect of the future into which we are 

Clinging to the apparently more solid framework of what has 
already been acquired and of the past, we try — surrounded as we 
are by relatively stable persons and things — to forget the be- 
wildering domain of possibilities in which we are swallowed 

However, in spite of ourselves, the feeling of the uncertainty 
in which we drift and of the inexorable force that drives us 

1 Matthew 14:28-31. All his life long, this was a favourite subject of 
meditation for Pere Teilhard. He frequently refers to it, particularly in his 
retreat notes. 

Operative Faith 227 

along, insists on making its way into our consciousness. However 
much we try to escape into the present, we are still haunted by the 
temptation to look overboard at what lies outside our vessel. 
The temptation becomes irresistible, and in the end we raise our 
heads and risk a glance into the future. 

And then it is that we find ourselves hypnotized by a double 
abyss. 2 

The first abyss that opens up is that of our fragility. 

From the direction from which we approach it, the Real that 
is still to come appears to us to be made up of an inextricable 
network of causalities (or antecedents). Looked at in isolation, 
the fibres of this shifting and tangled fabric seem, to all intents and 
purposes, to be firmly knit. Taken in groups, however, and in 
their combinations (and it is these alone that have any importance 
for life) they are found to be completely inconstant and instable. 
The least bit added to or taken away from the components, the 
least variation in the time or place of their coming together, is 
sufficient radically to transform the shape of the whole. The 
future seems to be completely at the mercy of the forces of 
chance. All the active reserves of the world seem to be caught up 
in a process that, given an infinitesimal difference of propulsive 
force (whose magnitude bears no relation to the results entailed), 
will end either in successful achievement or in utter waste. What, 
then, looking at it from where we stand, is at stake in this game 
of hazard, if not ourselves? 

When we consider the intangible haze of chances through 
which we have to keep ourselves going and find our way, we 
feel the same trembling that possesses us when we stand, with no 
parapet to cling to, on a rock overhanging a sheer drop. 

How did we ever manage to climb so high? What can stop us 
from falling? How can the countless determinisms by whose 
interplay we are formed have been able to combine, and how is 
it that at every moment of our lives they do not break away 

Consider what infinite numbers of favourable encounters — 

2 'Fragility' and 'contingence': i.e., what Pere Teilhard was later to call 
'inconsistence*. Cf. Retreat of 1945 : 'To accept and love the feeling of utter 
inconsistence'; retreat of 1948: 'Yes: the dizzy abyss of fragility, of instability* 

228 Writings in Time of War 

whose improbability increases in geometrical progression — must 
have been needed for the Earth to be formed, for mankind to 
develop, and for my own puny person to come into the world. 
Think, again, how slender, and ever more slender, are the threads 
from which my existence is woven, extending from the initial 
starting-point of the cosmic processes right down to the meeting 
of my parents . . . Had but a single one of those threads snapped 
my spirit would never have emerged into existence. 

What was it that brought all these together, and what is it that 
now keeps them so? 

If we look back, if we look downwards, we suddenly feel the 
agony of our extreme complexity; it seems as though we must 
fall apart, so improbable do we appear to be. 

And yet we do not fall ! 

If we gently test out the machinery of our thought and our 
organism, we find that it is functioning: it was an illusion that 
made our minds reel for a moment. Existence still stands firm in 
us. We must continue to live. 

That may well be true: but what are we to do if we wish to 
climb higher? 

It is then that, after sowing doubts in our minds even about 
our past, a vivid awareness of the risks we run in pressing ahead, 
tends to paralyse the impetus that drives us towards the future. 
God above! how can we find our way through the countless 
roads in the void that yawns before us? The least false step in any 
direction can turn [divert] my course into a direction that is the 
complete reverse of what I wish — and, in particular, it can bring 
me into contact with entirely different forces, which can mean 
for me either safety or ruin. 

I tremble when I contemplate the infinite variety of possible 
clashes that may be produced between me and the infinitely 
numerous and close-packed beings who haunt the region which 
I am about to enter. 

Faced with such vast complexity and such extreme tenuity, 
how can I even begin to make a reckoning? 

How can I pluck up the courage to take a single step, let alone 
to strike out boldly? 

Operative Faith 229 

And yet, if I stand still, how can I fail to fall? 

Wherever I look, farther than the eye can see, the future 
undulates like a treacherous, intangible, atmosphere. 

The only fixed lines I can see are the inhuman trajectories of 
certain laws of probability. Just as chance arises from an assembled 
body of determinisms, so a determinism of the second order is 
born from the coming together of all chances. Nemesis, the 
goddess of the undifferentiated whole, she who knows no man's 
name and loves no man, who forbids good to exceed evil, who 
levels down and works to bring all things into one and the same 
circle — blindly, endlessly — she is the only power to whom I can 
turn my eyes and in whom I can place my hopes. 

And yet, in fact, I have only to look at her and ice-cold fear 
drains the last of my courage. For, with her coming, I see that I 
have fallen into the heart of the second abyss whose depth shocks 
my eyes when I dare to peer into the time that stretches ahead of 
me — the abyss of necessity lying at the bottom of the abyss of con- 

No part of me is free from necessity: it is incorporated into my 
substance and secreted by my activity. I rest upon it, and every 
decision I make strengthens its dominion over me. 

On the one hand, there are the countless determinisms whose 
haphazard network is my support. These continue to live, 
hidden within me, like those vibratory impulses that capriciously 
combine to form a particle of matter, and, a moment later, 
separate and revert to their original dimensions. As the im- 
permanent and unpredictable result of a thousand convergent 
forces, we. are (as regards much the greater part of ourselves, 
which is neither initially free, nor freed later) subject to the com- 
bined laws of these elementary inevitabilities. This accounts for 
those tendencies in my nature that nothing can correct, for my 
innate virtues and defects, for the particular rhythm of my 
development, the various healthy or unhealthy processes that take 
place in my organism. 

And this is not all. 

Through the free action of the whole it forms, the more or less 

230 Writings in Time of War 

ephemeral association of determinisms that constitutes me, is 
obliged (by the very way in which it works) to envelop itself in 
an ever closer web of compulsions. Every new decision I make 
drives me along a road that I shall never be able to leave. It per- 
manently restricts the field of possibilities open to me, and 
confines my future to a narrower sphere. However anxious I may 
be to do so, I can never take back the words I have spoken or 
undo the folly I have been guilty of. Every decision is projected 
into the formless, fluid, future, and there it closes water-tight 
bulkheads that I cannot force. Our existence is imprisoned in 
the irreparable: so irreversible duration insists. 

The deeper we look into ourselves, the more numerous, we 
see to our horror, are the fetters of the incurable and the irre- 
parable. From all sides necessity creeps in to attack body and 
soul. Every day it pushes out more tentacles into the fabric of 
the future, initially so pliant and immature. 

All these rigid lines into which we are forced share a common 
framework: they all derive from the fundamental obligation of 
living imposed on us without reference to our own wishes. 
Moreover, they all converge upon one and the same unavoid- 
able centre: death. 3 

Seen in the future, death is the epitome, and the common 
basis, of everything that terrifies us and makes our minds reel. 

It is the one great misfortune (casus), the supremely important 
event that can be called down upon us by the most insignificant 
decision on our part, or the most trifling accident. 

It is a sort of punishment inflicted on us by Nemesis in return 
for, and to make up for, the existence we have enjoyed. 

It is the inevitable destiny (fatum) involved in our birth and 
imposed as a limit to our lives. 

Our eyes dwell, without ever being able to focus, on the dark 
horizon that on all sides marks the boundary of the future — as 
though we were looking at those pools of blackness between 
the stars, from which there radiates (born in the supreme void 

8 Here Pere Teilhard describes the dark side of death; later (pp. 241-2), in the 
light of faith, death will be seen as the gateway into life. This is the constant 
pattern of his reflection on death. 

Operative Faith 231 

in which All moves) a more powerful pull towards the abyss. 
What new hazards, what further compulsions, await us 
beyond that darkness? 

A man must have felt the shadow of death pass over him, if he 
is to understand all the loneliness, the danger, and the terror that 
each new advance into the future brings with it. 

It is only when danger threatens — a danger in face of which we, 
and all those around us, are powerless — that the future can be seen 
by us distinctly: it is only then that we can see its two aspects of 
capricious fortune and implacable destiny — an ocean that is at 
once inconstant and stormy, in which we may be capsized and 
founder — an ocean whose inconsistency is as uncontrollable as its 
unleashed power. 

Those who have not been within an inch of death have never 
really seen what lay ahead of them. 

Others — those whom an overpowering terror has forced 
boldly to raise their eyes and look time straight in the face — have 
often succumbed to fear, even in the middle of what was until 
then a confident advance between the abysses on either side; and 
in their consternation they may well have felt that they were 
falling headlong. 4 

b: natural faith 

The most solid basis for our certainty is probably the principle 
that 'the tiuth never disarms action*. 

That being so, let us look at the apprehension we feel when we 
become vividly aware of the hazards and necessities of the future: 
it is an unhealthy apprehension, since it tends to disintegrate our 
substance and slacken the sinews of our will. We may say, then, 
that it points unmistakably to some ignorance, some faulty 
perspective, in our view of the future. 

From this we can only conclude that if we are to remain 
faithful to truth and life, we must at all costs master our feeling 
of dizziness: not, however, by closing our eyes, for such an 

4 One has here the direct echo of the experience of the war years. 

232 Writings in Time of War 

attitude is not only unworthy of a man but also quite ineffective 
in bringing us reassurance: once we have looked into the void the 
feeling it inspires continues irresistibly to make its way into us 
through every fibre of our being. What we have to do is to fix 
our eyes firmly on the object which terrifies us. No matter what 
the cost, we must look at it without flinching, not trying to 
summon up some sort of passive resignation (stoic, fatalist, or 
merely supine), but reinforcing our conviction that the untamed 
element into which we are venturing can be mastered by our 
energy — that our energy will ultimately be able to stabilize its 
fluidity and master its determinisms. 

We must, if we are not to sink back into despondency, and from 
that into inertia, succeed in imposing regularity and docility upon 
the future. 

Moreover, there can be no doubt that it is possible to do so. 

The fact is plain enough: so far, the universe has succeeded in 
making progress. The soul of man appeared in the midst of a 
chaos of chance; and this must mean that Spirit was able in some 
way to make improbability accept control, and to free itself from 
determinisms — at least in so far as the determinisms had to be 
made to yield in order to overcome chance. However unlikely it 
may seem to us, a direct 'pre-action on the future, and at least a 
partial emancipation from material mechanisms, are modes of 
action that do in fact exist in our universe. The utter bewilder- 
ment we feel as we stand on the threshold of destiny can derive, 
in consequence, only from an optical illusion or from failure on 
our part to understand some power contained within us. 

Anyone who has more than a superficial interest in intellectual 
enquiry or to whom it is not simply a means to personal success, 
has felt that the fundamental problem is 'to discover the secret of 
advancing confidently and freely into the future 9 ; and it is the search 
for the solution to this problem that must inspire him. 

Modern man has come to take it for granted that the best place 
to look for an answer to this secret is in science, in other words, in 
a clear knowledge of the laws of the universe. There are some 
who think it may be perfectly possible to work out the random 
possibilities so exactly, and elucidate the mechanisms of life so 

Operative Faith 233 

clearly, that chance, evil, and even death may one day be eliminated : 
they rely, in fact, on calculated action directed from outside on 
nature's mechanism. The scientist, not without some reason, holds 
that man will notbe able to say that he is free until he has so profound 
and rational a knowledge of what makes up the future and what 
laws govern it, that he is in a position to control and direct them 
infallibly, making them work against each other — in other words, 
by turning against them their own determinism. He is certain, 
for example, that vaccines give us an undeniable power to check 
the progress of a number of diseases. 

It is immediately apparent that if this great hope of scientifically 
mastering the future is pushed to the limit, it must presuppose a 
particular static and materialist view of nature. If knowledge of 
the elements that make up the future is to allow us to predict and 
control later forms of life, then we must admit that these forms 
contain no power higher in order than those we now experience: 
and that means that if we gradually make our way back into the 
past, the present universe contains nothing more than the primi- 
tive nebula. 

Thus the man who relies on science does more even than 
fantastically extrapolate the curve of our present discoveries: he 
gives mystical assent to a philosophy or, more correctly, to a sort 
of religion. Adherence to the doctrine of salvation by science 
amounts to an act of faith. It is not with that faith, however, that 
the present study is concerned. 5 

The natural faith that I wish to analyse here is the faith pro- 
fessed by a class of thinkers — profoundly hostile to the worship of 
science, even though scientists by conviction — who believe they 
have found a way of influencing the Real still to come. This is a 
procedure very different from working out possible combinations 
and making mathematical calculations. 

Since all time, there have been men who believe that instead 
of attacking determinisms through the use of reason and from 
outside, it would be much quicker and more effective to work 
upon them from within, by means of some living, mental influ- 

5 What does concern him is to refute 'scientism' — an exaggerated respect for 

234 Writings in Time of War 

The 'scientist* has little time for such people who do not shrink 
from putting forward a psychical and voluntarist doctrine in 
opposition to the mechanical and intellectualist method of 
attempting to dominate phenomena. The great mass of the 
public regards them as visionaries. And yet — who knows? — may 
it not be the dreamers and the mystics who can show us the true 
road to freedom? 

In its present, developed, form 6 the human doctrine that has 
recourse to an internal spiritual effort to free us from chance and 
the irreparable, derives from a common every-day experience 
expressed in the old saying: Audentes fortune favet. 

Fortune favours the brave. 

That, indeed, is the law that popular good sense has extracted 
from an experience so lengthy and so venerable that, in com- 
parison with it, science's analytical objections seem negligible. 

There are men to whom success comes for no apparent reason, 
sometimes over a long period, because they are born 'under a 
lucky star*. 

But there are others, too, whose boldness and tenacity enables 
them to bring chance to heel. A line of action pressed on with 
perseverance seldom fails to create around, and ahead of it, a 
current of favourable events. 

Boldness determines fortune. 

We may say even more: boldness forces the gateway into life. 

Unlike hesitation, which dissociates bodily and spiritual 
energies and makes them vacillate, decisiveness in action in- 
creases, almost without limit, our power over the real. It 'in- 
creases our strength tenfold'. One might even say that it creates 
new energies, so vigorously is inertia aroused and so abundantly 
do friendly activities spring up around the man who is bold 
and determined — so unmistakably, in the muscles or the brain 
that strain in an ardent or desperate effort 'towards life', are 
new levels attained of physical strength and intellectual penetra- 

6 The magic that seeks to tame and subdue natural forces, conceived as 
animate, by incantations, can be associated with the doctrine of 'Progress 
through the will': but only, of course, if it is understood to be a rudimentary 
or degenerate expression of the doctrine. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

Operative Faith 235 

Every day of our life we can experience something of this 

With the evidence of these, and other similar facts we can 
understand why some men have believed they could see a new 
light dawning for their minds. 

Who can say whether these limited and unco-ordinated 
experiences might not be transformed into a strict and general 
rule of action? Whether chance might not be like the air — in- 
tangible and elusive to too cautious a grasp, and yet safe and 
stable to resolute flight? Whether determinisms, inflexible in the 
routine conditions of our existence, might not, given a sufficient 
degree of vital tension, become pliable, and ready to combine in 
new properties? 

It would, in truth, be altogether too much — though by no 
means unheard of— that man should have lived for centuries, 
bearing within himself— and even using in a bungling way — the 
weapon that could win his freedom, without understanding its 
universal effectiveness and range. 

And then suddenly, when the human mind was struggling to 
make this great hope possible for itself, to make it reasonable, 
probable — a philosophy was at hand ready to accept, to generalize 
— demonstrate, almost — the truth of conclusions arrived at 

According to a familiar form of idealism, matter and its inter- 
connexions do not exist in themselves, but result from a mechani- 
zation, a concretion, of thought. Matter is a fixation, an 'anky- 
losis', of Spirit, it is Spirit in an excessive state of fragmentation. 
All that would be required, therefore, would be a mental effort 
sui generis (individual or collective auto-suggestion) to re-animate 
the vast mechanism of the cosmos, and so to expel chance and 
death from this universe, now fully subject to Spirit. If we wish 
to win dominion over the future, all we have to do is boldly to 
bring the weight of our will to bear upon things, and at the same 
time to adjust the range and focus of our intellectual outlook in a 
particular way. 

Such is the horizon, essentially practical and terrestrial, that 
opens up for natural faith: not only, we see, as a doctrine pre- 

236 Writings in Time of War 

sented for its assent, but also as a result that may be expected from 
its operative power. Natural faith is above all an operative faith, 
and operative here below. The man who adheres to it believes that 
he can free the world by believing. And in so doing he adopts an 
attitude that is natural (naturalist) on two counts: 

(i) First, because all he has in mind, and all he wants, is a trans- 
formation of the experiential universe. 

(ii) Secondly, because he tends to make the human mind itself 
the agent of universal betterment, the Centre spreading through 
all things that is to exert a direct influence on the cosmos and so 
re-animate and vitalize it. 7 

Christian Science derived from a naturalistic and literal inter- 
pretation of the promises made to Faith by the Gospels: in a form 
that contains a curious mixture of revealed religion, it is precisely 
this method and this ideal that it offers its followers. 8 

For the Christian Scientist, it is true, the divine power inter- 
venes as a necessary stage between human will and the effects 
produced by trust in Christ. Christ is the active milieu (the 
medium) in whom alone the Earth can become curable and faith 
become effective. However, this appeal to the supernatural would 
appear to be very largely nominal. 

In the first place, the benefits hoped for from faith-healing are 
almost exclusively the alleviation of physical ills and an extremely 
'Emersonian' 9 happiness. Secondly, the effort of faith demanded 
from the soul has all the characteristics of an auto-suggestion, into 
which Christ enters only as a fictitious figure, whose purpose is to 

7 The natural faith criticized here would be more correctly called 'naturalist* 
faith. Pere Teilhard may well have had some particular writer in mind. The 
first of his two criticisms is directly applicable to H. G. Wells, and the same 
might perhaps be true of the second. 

8 Founded by the American Mrs Mary Baker Eddy, whose most important 
book was Science and Religion (1875; new edition, with Key to the Scriptures, 
1910). At the time Pere Teilhard was writing Christian Science had great 
influence, particularly in the U.S.A. and Great Britain. 

9 Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) still exercised considerable influence in 
the first quarter of the twentieth century: he put forward the concept of an 
'ideal Church' and extolled a 'moral sentiment* higher than any of the great 
figures that transmit it. His Autobiographie (based on las Journals, tr. by Regis 
Michaud) was published in France in 1914. 

Operative Faith 23 7 

stimulate (set in motion) a force that is 'naturally' inherent in 

For these two reasons we may say, without injustice, that faith- 
healing is no more than a hardly disguised adaptation, in terms of 
the Gospel, of mans faith in himself 

Both faiths have the same power (and very real it is) : no one can 
yet determine its upper limits, which are certainly much higher 
than science (and our more rash Christian apologists) are yet 
willing to admit. 

Both, however, when we try to make them the instrument of 
our final salvation, fall a long way short of their goal. This is, 
first, because our wills, even working collectively, can do very 
little to influence in favour of our paltry ends the great driving 
forces of a universe in which all holds together and in which 
there are, without doubt, many other monads besides human 
souls. Secondly, it is because the brilliant hopes glimpsed by 
natural faith lie, in reality, on a plane completely different from 
that on which it pursues them; they are, therefore, completely 
out of the reach of natural faith. 


To read the Gospel with an open mind is to see beyond all 
possibility of doubt that Christ came to do more than bring us 
new truths concerning our destiny: he brought us not only a 
new concept of it, more exalted than that which we already had 
in our minds, but also, in a very real way, a new physical power 
of acting upon our temporal world. 

Through a failure to grasp the exact nature of this power 
newly bestowed on all who put their confidence in God — a 
failure due either to a hesitation in face of what seems to us so 
unlikely, or to a fear of falling into illuminism — many Christians 
neglect this earthly aspect of the Master's promises, or at least do 
not give themselves to it with that complete boldness which he, 
however, never tires of asking of us, if only we have ears to hear 

We must not allow timidity or modesty to turn us into drones. 

23 8 Writings in Time of War 

If it is true that the development of the world can be influenced 
by our faith in Christ, then to let this power lie dormant within 
us would indeed be unpardonable. 

We must ask ourselves, therefore, what pressure the believer 
should consider himself qualified, in the light of Christ's promises, 
to exert upon the future as it unfolds. 

i. Fundamentally, the Christian has received from his Saviour 
the power of mastering fortune: that is to say he can so control 
the chances as to make them work in his favour. If that were not 
so, it would be impossible to account for the efficacy of prayer, 
and the saying Credenti, omnia convertuntur in bonum would be 

Scripture tells us this categorically. 10 

Thus I believe that disorder obeys my command, given in the 
name of Christ — the fluid becomes solid and stable. 

To God, all things are possible. 

The point, however, is this: how is that control realized? 

We must picture it to ourselves as follows: it is just as though 
the essential single world we live in were, in spite of its unity, as 
multiple as the monads it contains. Even though the global 
progress of things is, in itself, one progress, we must recognize 
that it adds up not only to as many different aspects (that, of 
course, is inevitable) but also to as many variable [modifiable] 
individually isolated aspects as there are conscious minds. In 
virtue of some divine foreknowledge which controls the progress 
of the whole as a function of the freedom of each one, it is just as 
though there were, in the single event-system that determines the 
state of the universe at a given moment, as many independent 
providences as there are souls in the world. Thus each one of us has, 

10 < 

) Cf. Romans 8 :28 : Scimus autem quoniam diligentibus Deum omnia eo- 
operantur in bonum. Cf. Cosmic Life (1916), p. 69: 'Everything, everything 
without exception, can, in the order of salvation, be of service to the monad 
of good will, Omnia cooperantur in bonum \ This same text reappears in 
Forma Christi as 'Credenti, omnia convertuntur in Christum. Cf. letter of 2 Dec. 
191 5: 'It's St Paul who tells us that, for those who love God, everything works 
together for the greatest good of the soul*. [Making of a Mind, p. 82.) It is this 
that gives the Christian who lives by faith 'the blissful consciousness of living 
in a universe super-animated by our Lord* (letter of Easter Sunday, 1927). 

Operative Faith 239 

in reality, his own universe; he is its centre and he is called upon 
to introduce harmony into it, just as though he were alone Un 
natura rerwri. 

In the light of this 'polyvalence' of the Cosmos, 11 which 
enables prayer to exercise a creative pre-action on the totality of 
phenomena, we can understand how each one of us, by confident 
prayer, can modify his own future without necessarily interfering 
with that of his neighbour — without even disturbing, in any 
scientifically demonstrable way, the course of natural events. 
Experimental science, whose field is confined to determinisms 
considered in detail, cannot conflict with faith, which acts in such 
a way as to modify the overall design of the tapestry without 
breaking any individual thread. 

Chance, that is to say unpredictable encounters produced by 
the collective play of cosmic forces, 12 ceases, at the same time, to be 
repugnant to reason. On the contrary, it represents God's role in 
the direction of the world — or, we might say, it retains God's role 
intact. It is through chance (and, may we say, at the opposite 
pole to chance, through man's freedom) that creative power 
enters into the universe — the power whose specific function is to 
act by operating synthetically upon wholes — in other words by 
controlling the collective play of causes. 

Further, we now have an explanation of the grossly excessive 
influence on our destiny exercised by trifling deviations. If it is true 
that life's progress enables us to advance into something 'com- 
pletely new', the importance of the events which develop us 

11 This doctrine of the 'polyvalence* of the cosmos is of cardinal importance: 
failure to appreciate it opens the door to the crudest distortion of all Teilhard's 
thought. Another essential distinction Teilhard makes, besides the one he 
explains here, corresponds more or less exactly to the distinction the Epistle 
to the Hebrews draws between the Kosmos and the Oikoumene (cf. Albert 
Vanhoye, L'Oikounttne dans Vfyitre dux H&breux, in Biblica, vol. 45, fasc. 2, 
1964, pp. 248-53): The Kosmos is the earth as it is now, the visible and material 
world. The Oikoumene is the 'eschatological reality', 'the world of inter- 
personal relationships'. Christ entered into the Kosmos through the Incar- 
nation he humbly accepted: the triumph of Easter led him into the Oikou- 

12 This is a completely Aristotelian and Thomistic concept. Cf. A.-D. Ser- 
tillanges, Saint Thomas d'Aquin, vol. 2, pp. 57 if: 'La Contingence dans la 

240 Writings in Time of War 

spiritually cannot possibly be measured according to the rules, nor 
in the dimensions, of the material order from which we are even 
now being released. The degree of creative energy enclosed in an 
event can have nothing in common with its mechanical magni- 

Finally, we see that the disorder of the chance events among 
which we move is purely apparent. The chaotic appearance of 
the future is due to our seeing the development of the universe 
'the wrong way' or 'from the underside'. We are looking at a 
tapestry from the back, or playing a piece of music backwards. If 
we are to appreciate the harmony of events, they must be looked 
at 'in descending order'; we must, that is, start from the results to 
produce which they are set in motion. Looked at from this angle 
(that is, starting from God, who gathers us to himself) their un- 
disciplined multitude falls into order: but, what is more, we can 
see how it is bound together in a final purpose (proportionate to 
our faith) which gives their fluidity a coherence higher than that 
of the Past. 13 In contrast with what we habitually feel, 'every- 
thing here below hangs together from on high'. 14. The utter bewilder- 
ment we feel, whether we consider the improbability of what 
we were yesterday or the uncertainty of what we shall be to- 
morrow, is the result of a faulty analysis: it is the same mistake 
as that which causes our most heart-felt convictions to fade even 
as we entertain them, as soon as we try to reduce them completely 
to distinct motives, or that which upsets our most long-estab- 
lished equanimity immediately we try to rationalize the sound- 
ness of even our least important actions. 

Once we accept that the world is 'pluri-providentiar, every- 
thing that lies ahead of us takes on clarity and stability. At the 
same time, we should note that this still remains hidden from 
those who do not wish to see; either (as we have already seen) 

18 Cf. Creative Union: 'The Consistence of the Future* (note by Pere Teil- 

14 A quotation from Maurice Blondel. Cf. Mon Univers (191 8), p. 281: 
'The whole coherence and ontological value of the universe depends upon 
Spirit, which knits and binds together the elements of the world'. The criticism 
that, in Teilhard's view of evolution, the 'ascent* of the creature can only be 
secondary, is based on a complete misunderstanding. (Cf. Charles Joumet, 
Nova et Vetera, 1964, p. 310.) 

Operative Faith 241 

because it is only the totality of events that is influenced by faith, 
or because providence's adaptation of the visible universe to the 
requirements of each soul is effected in view not of a temporal 
success but of a success in heaven. Even if we believe with all our 
strength, fortune will not necessarily yield, as we advance, in the 
way we wish, but in the way that must be. 15 

2. This twofold character of faith operating on the uncertainties 
of the future — to harmonize the whole in preparation for a higher 
state — applies directly to the power it possesses, in the second 
place, of overcoming in the name of Christ the forces of evil, and 
more particularly death. 

There is, no doubt, such a thing as the faith that works miracles: 
but this should not blind us to the true nature of our spiritual 
dominion over the cosmos. The prodigy amazes us because it 
asserts itself in the teeth of determinisms over a limited area and 
produces a 'local* reversal of the advance of time: but it has 
always been, and, it would seem, must necessarily continue to be, 
an altogether exceptional form of action. While it is an antici- 
pation or a reflection of a form of life that transcends our own, it 
would not appear in any way to be the dawn of an earthly state 
of freedom and well-being. It heralds no millenium. 16 

Normally, as it habitually acts and can be relied on to act 
(which is all that concerns us here), faith does not break any 
injurious bonds that have been irreparably contracted in the past. 
All it does is to integrate them into a higher order. It forces them 
to work for good. It transforms them. It absorbs them. Sickness 
and error spell ruin to the small-minded, but the Christian, if lie 
has faith, can make them enter into a combination from which 
his universe 17 emerges with more sanctifying power in it and 

15 This is the classic doctrine that prayer is always answered if it proceeds 
from faith. 

16 Pere Teilhard thus dismisses any temptation to superstition and maintains 
the Christian in the purity of faith. On miracles, see Les miracles de Lourdes et 
Its enquetes canoniques, in. Etudes, Jan. 1909 (vol. 118, pp. 161-83). 

17 This indicates the precise meaning we should attach to the title of two 
essays by Pere Teilhard (191 8 and 1924) both called My Universe (Mon Univers). 
He means much more than the universe as he sees it and presents it to the 
minds of others: it it also his own universe, since every man has his own 
universe proportioned, so to speak, to his faith— as Pere Teilhard explains here. 

242 Writings in Time of War 

more of the divine. The Christian can make his own what is 
deadly poison to others, and assimilate it in such a way as to draw 
from it a new draught of life. It is in this sense alone that, through 
his faith, he conquers the inevitability of fate. And yet is not that 
victory in itself a resounding and unhoped for triumph? 

We may therefore dismiss, with the religion of idealism and 
Christian Science, our dreams of a temporal release from suffering 
and death; the disorganization of our flesh is too firmly built into 
the whole of our past and the structure of the cosmos — we may 
even say it is too essential to our true spiritualization — for us to be 
able, or to have the right, to think of escaping from it. The 
further one progresses in life, the more one changes. And the 
more one changes, the more one dies. This is precisely the law 
that governs our development. 

In spite of their sharing the same superficial appearance, so 
repugnant to our senses, there are as many sorts of deaths as 
there are souls; and some of those deaths are no more than a mere 
phase in the transformations of life. The whole difference that 
distinguishes them derives from the way in which the process of 
organic annihilation is influenced by faith — by the way in which 
it is physically converted by faith into a more or less direct ascent 
towards God. Only one effort, and it is one made possible by 
confidence in Christ, is worth making. It may be expressed thus: 
'to believe so resolutely in the virtue of death that we can cause 
life to arise from the blackest depths of its shadows'. 

3. The development in our soul of the supernatural life (founded 
on die natural spiritualization of the world by human effort) is, 
ultimately, the field in which the operative virtue of faith is 
exercised, positively and with no known limits. 

In the material universe it is Spirit, and in Spirit it is the moral 
sphere, which are eminently the present centre in which life 
develops. It is into this flexible core of ourselves, accordingly, 
where divine grace mingles with the natural impulses of the 
Earth, that we have forcefully to direct the power of faith. 

There, above all, we can count upon creative energy awaiting 
us, ready to transform us in a way that goes beyond anything that 
the eye of man has seen or his ear has heard. Who can say what 

Operative Faith 243 

God might make of us, if we dared, relying on his Word, to 
follow his precepts to the uttermost, and surrender ourselves to 
his providence? 

For love of our Creator and of the universe, we must fling 
ourselves boldly into the crucible of the world to come. 

To sum up, we see that three characteristics distinguish the 
Christian achievement, as realized through faith: 

(i) It is effected without distorting or destroying any individual 
determinism: events are not (as a general rule) diverted from their 
course by prayer, but integrated into a new form of combining 
the whole. 

(ii) It is found not necessarily on the plane of natural human 
achievement, but in the order of supernatural growth in holi- 

(iii) God is, in a real way, the agent, the source, and the medium 
of its developments. 

With this threefold reservation, which sharply distinguishes 
it from natural faith in its mode of operation, Christian faith is 
seen to be an extremely concrete and comprehensive 'cosmic 

This faith does not, in the first place, consider that its power is 
confined to the higher zones of grace. Conscious of its ability to 
mould and enlarge the physical system of the universe, it resolutely 
enters into the domain of visible phenomena, in which super- 
natural being has its roots and from which it draws nourishment. 

In order to handle and dominate these it neglects none of the 
natural means generally employed by man in his attempts to win 
his freedom. Through science, it seeks the cold, precise light that 
will enable it to distinguish the links in the chain of determinisms. 
Through the auto-suggestive power of the will, it tries to stimulate 
from deep within itself the dormant powers of its nature and 
personality. Working as industriously as though the whole of the 
future depended on the accuracy of its calculated predictions — 
straining with effort as though its only hope lay in its faith in 
itself— its single-minded behaviour illustrates the truth of the 
popular saying on which it bases its right to count upon God — 
God helps those who help themselves. 

244 Writings in Time of War 

Christian faith is very different from the supine resignation of 
the Lutheran who leaves all the work to Christ. It jettisons 
neither the rational method of conquering the world, nor man's 
confidence in himself: on the contrary, it stimulates and inspires 
them. But, in conformity with the law of the integration of the 
natural in the supernatural, it superimposes itself on both. It 
comes as a reinforcement to the laboriously maintained founda- 
tion of human effort, to build upon it, direct it, organize and 
transform it. Its final role concerns the network of human feelers 
that venture out tentatively into the abyss of the new being still 
to be explored: to these it gives a sort of vital infallibility, the 
power to penetrate boldly into the Real, and the firm guarantee 
of a single, inflexible, direction. 

Thus, just as does the creative power which it provides, faith 
operatur uniendo. 18 Under its influence, the elements cohere in a 
rigorously differentiated individual nature — and the individuals, 
in turn, communicating in one and the same divine Spirit, see 
their diversity melt away in a unity in which the form of 
the universe will be made complete — in which, that is to say, 
man's victory over the hazards of the future will be consum- 

If, in the name of Christ, we believe vigorously in our own 
power, we shall see the aimless meanderings of chance obediently 
accept our control. If we believe, the monotonous circle of 
nemesis will be shattered and from it a benevolent providence 
will emerge for us, a personal providence, orientated directly 
towards fuller being. If we believe, anything dangerous in the 
sap that runs through the world will no longer be poison to us, 
but will nourish our soul for eternal life. 19 

18 See Creative Union (note by Pere Teilhard). 

19 Cf. Le Milieu Divin, pp. 135-6, etc. Cf. letter of 12 Feb. 1919 on Christ 
'who, when seen by the eyes of faith, animates the whole complex of exterior 
events and interior experiences. Is there any better way of understanding and 
enjoying intimacy with the divine than the knowledge that Our Lord is at the 
heart of all that moves us ' (Making of a Mind, pp. 282-3). Such, indeed, was 
certainly Pere Teilhard's own faith. Cf. his letter to Pere Auguste Valensin, 
13 Nov. 1924, written on the very day on which he suffered the cruel shock of 
hearing of the first steps taken against him by Rome: 'Basically, I'm perfectly 
tranquil. Even this is only one more manifestation of Our Lord — it is another 
example of his operation — and so why should one worry?' 

Operative Faith 245 

In very truth, Christian faith is eminently the transforming 
agent, the supreme organizing force of the universe. It is, 
ultimately, that faith which controls every chance and liberates 
all the powers of the Earth. 

Now we know the secret, hitherto only glimpsed by men, of 
how we can bring a spiritual influence to bear upon our destinies. 
It consists in making Christ's hand reach out to us across the fluid 
medium in which we thought to founder. 

d: the work of faith 

If anyone is looking for an immediate alleviation of his suffering, 
and a material guarantee of his success in this life, then the hopes 
that may be realized by the action of faith, as just defined, will 
appear colourless and empty. 

Is it not, he will ask, evading the question to transfer to a 
domain that is at present closed to us the results of a struggle 
whose only too palpable reality lies so heavy upon us? There can 
be little satisfaction, surely, in finding the secret of being happy 
after death, when what we are looking for is a panacea for our 
present miseries? 

There is only one thing we can say to people who mourn their 
lost dream of material happiness — get down to work! 20 

Christian faith, you say, seems to be working on something 
that has no real existence, to be building in the clouds? That is 
precisely because you have never tried, borne up by that faith, 
to launch yourself into that domain in which alone it allows you 
to see as you move ahead. 

Here we have the mysterious bond that unites in our soul the 
faculties of seeing and acting: the higher reality of the super- 
natural world is apparent only to those who have the courage to 
make up their minds that it is true, and to set to work to build it 

20 Cf. Esquisse d'un univers personnel (1936) : 'Instead of standing on the shore 
and proving to ourselves that the ocean cannot bear us up, we must venture 
out on its waters . . . We must take the chance of this bold gesture'. (Oeuvres, 
vol. 6, p. no.) See also Le Milieu Divin, introduction, pp. 46-7. 

246 Writings in Time of War 

up in themselves. The vision of faith accompanies (or should I say 
follows"?) the action of faith. 

Like other real objects, Christ is 'experienced'. 

So long as we do not try to make our way to him without any 
hesitation, he will seem to us a phantom. As soon as we pluck 
up our courage to regard him as more real than all else, and to 
seek him, as he wishes us to do, above all things, he will become — 
through the external influence of his providence (which everyone 
is at liberty, from his own point of view, to deny except the man 
who is consciously its object), and through his unmistakable 
interior impact — through both these he will become the most 
substantial Reality that exists, the Reality that can show itself to 
be always, and indefinitely, more real. 

Although all the phenomena of the lower world appear to 
remain the same (the material determinisms, the vicissitudes of 
chance, the law of work, the restless activity of men, the foot- 
falls of death), the man who dares to believe reaches a sphere of 
created reality in which things, while retaining their habitual 
texture, seem to be made out of a different substance. Everything 
remains the same so far as phenomena are concerned, but at the 
same time everything becomes luminous, animated, instinct with 

Through the operation of faith, Christ appears, Christ is 
born, without any violation of nature's laws, in the heart of the 

As soon as the believer has penetrated into Christ, the world 
loses for him its multiplicity, its dead weight, its rigidity, its 

The fragmented and turbid multitude of beings falls into a 
harmonious pattern, and dissolves into an organized, transparent 
entity. The terrifying inertia of mechanisms and wills lies so 
lightly upon us that we feel we have the strength to raise up and 
perfect the world. The hard-set mass of the cosmos suddenly 
allows itself to be moulded and blossoms out into exuberant life. 
The disorderly variety of phenomena takes on stability. Com- 
bining, in his activity, the most contrary forms of joy, the 
believer has the double happiness of acting effectively upon a 

Operative Faith 247 

pliable world that is now in full growth, and of resting upon the 
boundless security of the Absolute — and in all things he is in 
communion with God, whose power he makes his own and 
whose encompassing Presence he intensifies . . . 

in Christo Jesu. n 

But, once again, we must tell ourselves, 'In truth, I say to you, 
only the daring can enter the Kingdom of God, hidden hence- 
forth in the heart of the world/ 

It is of no use to read these pages, or other similar pages 
written twenty centuries ago, merely with one's eyes. Anyone 
who, without having put his hand to the plough, thinks he 
has mastered them, is deluding himself. We must try to live 
them. 22 

We must, in view of the practical uncertainty of the morrow, 
have thrown ourselves, in a true act of interior surrender, upon 
providence as our sole support — providence accepted as being as 
physically real as the objects of our disquietude; we must, in our 
suffering of the ills we have incurred, our remorse for the sins we 
have committed, our vexation over the opportunities we have 
missed, have forced ourselves to believe unhesitatingly that God 
is powerful enough to turn each and every particular evil into 
good; we must, despite some appearances to the contrary, 
have acted without reservation as though our being could make 
progress only when directed towards chastity, humility, loving- 

We must, in the shadow of death, have forced ourselves not to 
look back to the past, but to seek in utter darkness the dawn of 

Only a long and patient struggle can teach us the operative 
power of faith and show us what it can achieve. 

21 This theme was soon to be developed in Forma Christi, and later, at greater 
length, in Le Milieu Divin. 

22 The point emphasized, it will be appreciated, is the boldness of faith, 
understood in a very precise sense. This boldness is diametrically opposed to 
the Promethean attitude that some critics, distorting the meaning of such 
passages as this, have accused Pere Teilhard of adopting. What he wishes the 
Christian to do is 'to make the most of the resources of his faith' (Le Milieu 
Divin, p. 73). 

248 Writings in Time of War 

Only he who has fought bravely and been victorious in the 
battle against the spurious security and strength and attraction of the 
past can attain to the firm and blissful experiential certainty that 
'the more we lose all foothold in the darkness and instability of 
the future, the more deeply we penetrate into God\ 

28 September lgiS 23 
28 Cf. p. 225. 

Forma Christi 

On 4 Nov. lgiS Pere Teilhard wrote to his cousin Marguerite Teillard 
from Mericourt (Haute-Saone): 'I've finished drawing up a plan for 
my next essay, "Forma Christi' ' ({Making of a Mind\ p. 248); and on 
8 December j from Strasbourg: * We're still at Strasbourg, and I've 
fallen into a regular and studious routine of life which in some ways 
reminds me of my time in Paris. Except at night-time and for meals, 
I spend my time in the seminary by the cathedral, where a room has 
been placed at my disposal. I'm working on "Forma Christi" ' (Ibid, 
p. 263). 

Again on the 13th (p. 267): 'I've finished writing and copying out 
u Forma Christi". It makes twenty pages, very close-packed with 
thought, which seem to me an advance on what I've written so far {from 
the point of view of the way in which I see Our Lord present in this 



This new essay contains a restatement (since we shall soon be in 
1919) of ideas that I have constantly, during the last four years, 
been trying to express. They relate to the synthesis, in the 
interior life of the Christian, of love of God and love of the 

I am more convinced than ever that our generation under- 
stands Christianity in a way that is too extrinsic and too indi- 
vidualistic. Dogma, both as preached from the pulpit and as it 
enters into the consciousness of those who receive it: (1) is some- 
thing up in the air, above the universe, and with no connexion 
with it; (2) it seems to impinge upon only an insignificant part of 
cosmic reality. To present the Christian God as in this way 
external to and (even quantitatively) less than, nature, is in itself, 
to impoverish his being. And this is doubly deplorable at a time 
when the noblest souls on our earth are filled with religious 
emotion by discovering the unity, the mystery and the immensity 
of the world of experience. While, for St John and St Paul in 
particular, Christianity was essentially 1 a Cosmogony, one might 
nowadays be justified sometimes in saying that we modern 
Christians can see and present to others only the didactic or 
disciplinary side of our creed. It is hardly surprising, therefore, 
that to many people who have been brought up on firm concrete 
realities the Christian revelation seems hopelessly frigid and 

It is essential for us to get back to the soundest currents of 
Catholic tradition and at last offer men a theology in which 

1 To say 'essentially' is going too far, since the Christianity of St John and 
St Paul is in the first place a religion— a fact that Pere Teilhard would obviously 
never dream of denying. 

Forma Christi 251 

Christ will be seen to be linked with the development of 
the whole universe, a universe as physical and as great as he is. We 
must give them a Gospel in which moral teaching and the 
precepts of Christ are presented not simply as the guarantees of an 
individual reward, but as the road organically essential to the 
collective success of the whole of life. 

It is time for our religion in some way to draw new youth 
from a substantial infusion of the Earth's passions and spiritual 

In what follows I shall try to show how this combination 
(retaining their hierarchical order) of all the powers of Spirit is 
demanded by the very nature of the total Christ, and that we can 
believe in this and try to realize it without doing violence either 
to the fundamental dogma of the gratuitous nature of super- 
natural or to the vital principle of detachment from the things of 
this world. 

a: the choosing of the instrument 

Secundum potentiam (dvva/uv) qua possit Ipse omnia sibi sub- 
jicere. St. Paul. Philippians, 3:21. 

When we are discussing the developments of the universe and its 
future, we almost always speak as though each new phase of 
being in the history of the world had the power to determine and 
bring about the next phase. On the whole, we instinctively 
picture the cosmos to ourselves as from its very beginning im- 
plying (necessitating), because of something in its original 
elements, a precise natural term. 

This way of looking at things distorts the facts. 

It is perfectly true, of course, that if we look at the universe 
from the point of view of its present concrete progress, we must 
conclude that it is directed towards a determined final end: if that 
were not so, it would crumble into dust. We must, however, 
realize that 'secundum signa rationis {ratiocinatae)\ this final purpose 
that embraces, co-ordinates and animates the general movement of 
things, is a creative influence, that works downwards, by which I 

252 Writings in Time of War 

mean that it operates by gradually becoming more exactly defined; it 
is the culmination of a synthesizing process. 

In itself, before the final decision that recast all the successive 
moments of creation into a single continuous evolution, 2 each 
true phase in the growth of the universe (in the formation, that is, 
of Spirit) represents, in relation to the divine power, a real stage 
of indetermination — a level — at which the creative operation 
could halt or, at any rate, branch off along an infinite number of 
different lines. 

The appearance of the human soul, as an autonomous and in- 
destructible element of the world, is the supreme example of one 
of these levels of indetermination in the evolution of our cosmos. 
With man, we reach the end of one particular plane — a circle is 
drawn around the universe. The multiplicity of rational monads, 
'in signo priori ad Christum 9 , constitutes a sort of virgin matter, 
adapted to numerous purposes, but requiring only some further 
unification of their plurality. It is the flock without a shepherd. 

We know from Revelation what destiny God had freely de- 
termined for this Multiple, when he planted it to grow in the 
soil of this Earth. Men are called to form one single Body, in an 
intensely intimate divinization; and Christ's humanity was 
chosen to serve as the instrument of this unification in which the 
unravelled skein of all the fibres of the universe is woven into one. 
In Scripture Christ is essentially revealed as invested with the 
power of giving the world, in his own person, its definitive form. He 
is consecrated for a cosmic function. And since that function is not 
only moral but also (in the most real sense of the word) physical, 
it presupposes a physical basis in its humano-divine subject. 

If things are to find their coherence in Christo, we must ulti- 
mately admit that there is in natura Christi, besides the specifically 
individual elements of Man — and in virtue of God's choice — some 
universal physical* reality, a certain cosmic extension of his Body 
and Soul. 

2 An evolution, that is, in which all the theoretically distinct parts have 
reacted upon one another (working down from the top) in such a way as to 
produce a single real whole. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

8 Here, as often elsewhere, Pere Teilhard uses 'physical* simply as opposed 
to 'juridical' [Cf. Christopher F. Mooney, S.J., Teilhard de Chardin and the 

Forma Christi 253 

For us here below, this is the expression of the mystery of Christ 
that touches us most directly and intimately. 

Around the radiant sun of love that has risen to light up the 
world, there extends into infinity a 'corona' that is seldom seen 
and that is, nevertheless, the seat of the encompassing and 
unifying activity of the incarnate Word. 

Everything that I have written, here and elsewhere, pre- 
supposes the perception of, or is designed to bring out, this active 
light which, emanating from Christ, penetrates into us. 

We should note, further, that there is nothing strange about 
this idea of a universal physical element in Christ. 

Each and every one of us, if we care to observe it, is enveloped — is 
haloed — by an extension of his being as vast as the universe. We 
are conscious of only the core of ourselves. Nevertheless, the 
interplay of the monads would be unintelligible if an aura did 
not extend from one to another: something, that is, which is 
peculiar to each one of them and at the same time common to all. 

How, then, may we conceive Christ to be constituted as the 
cosmic centre of creation? 

Simply as a magnification, a transformation, realized in the 
humanity of Christ, of the aura that surrounds every human 

Just as one sees in a living organism elements, originally in- 
distinguishable from the others, suddenly emerge as leaders* so 
that they are seen to be centres of attraction or points at which a 
formative activity is concentrated: 

So (on an incomparably larger scale) the man, the Son of Mary, 
was chosen so that his aura, instead of serving simply as the 
medium in which interaction with other men might be effected 
ex aequo, might dominate them and draw them all into the net- 
work of its influence. 

Even before the Incarnation became a fact, the whole history 

Mystery of Christ, London and New York, 1966, p. 85: 'Perhaps the closest 
equivalent to Teilhard's "physical" in current theological usage is the word 
"ontological", which may be applied to whatever has existence in the present 
concrete order of things. "Physical" is thus opposed to all that is juridical, abstract, 
extrinsic to reality'.] 
4 Pere Teilhard uses the English word 'leaders'. 

254 Writings in Time of War 

of the universe (in virtue of a pre-action of the humanity of 
Christ, mysterious, but yet known to us through revelation) is 
the history of the progressive information 5 of the universe by 

b: the magnetism of christ 

Omnia traham ad meipsum. 

The first consequence of Christ's being chosen as Caput Creationis 
is that we are eminently drawn to him. If we ask whether we can 
be tangibly aware of this pull from above, we are faced with a 
very nice dilemma. 

If we say that we can — that (from the very nature of our 
emotional make-up) we can sensibly experience the desire to make 
our way to Christ as the single concrete centre of the present 
universe — then we are leaning towards the errors that have been 
condemned in the 'apologetics of immanence'. 

If we say that we cannot — that the world is moving towards some 
term (real or apparent) other than Christ — then we make faith 
psychologically impossible, since no authority outside ourselves 
could have the right or the power to turn our hearts away from 
an end that makes a more direct emotional appeal to us than 

There is only one safe course between Scylla and Charybdis: 
to admit that Christ is in a very real way the only concrete end 
awaiting the universe — adding, however, that his Being operates 
through extensions of his aura in which his divinity is not always 
equally embodied, and therefore manifests itself to us through a 
gradual and creative attraction. 

This calls for further explanation. 

It would seem that through a first surface of himself that he 
presents to us (the most external and most 'ambivalent') Christ 
acts upon our hearts as an ill-defined, impersonal, generic centre 
of universal union. When life in its lower stages is moving 
towards consciousness, when men are passionately striving for the 

5 The exact meaning of 'information is examined later, p. 266 (note by Pore 

Forma Christi 255 

complete freedom and unanimity of their spirit, when thinkers 
and poets thrill with excitement at the emergence of a 'world- 
soul', it is in fact Christ whom they are all seeking — Christ who 
still keeps hidden his personal and divine being, but nevertheless 
Christ himself, who must be theirs* object of desire as the key- 
stone that holds together the effort of the universe — Christ who 
must effectively fulfil this natural function before he can reveal 
himself to us through the more intimate parts of his being, and, 
in those depths, undertake the supernatural work of our sanctifi- 

Under this natural form assumed by his supernatural being in 
order to enter into our universe 6 Christ arouses and claims for 
himself what we have agreed to call the natural demands of the 
heart of man. In his capacity as the centre of all visible things, 
he draws to himself— even though he is not yet recognized — the 
eyes of all who draw their appetite for life from the expectation 
and preparation of an age of light and peace. 

This is the first step, common to all men, in Christ's magnetic 
power over souls. 

Nevertheless, a vague uneasiness still survives in the hearts of 
those who faithfully serve the world, in spite of all their efforts 
to build up from nature a terrestrial ideal. This anxiety heralds 
a higher stage in their initiation; in it is expressed the still ill- 
defined attractive force that emanates from those circles of 
Christ's being which are still closed to them. 

Until God speaks, however much the soul may reflect upon 
its appetites and desires, it can never discover the nature of the 
beatifying complement it seeks, but has not yet risen high enough 7 
to grasp. 

e If the supernatural term of the world did not at the same time 'round it off' 
naturally, it would leave the universe facing a void, and our hearts impervious 
to feeling. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

7 It would appear, nevertheless, that before God's word has been spoken by 
an inspired Prophet, there already exists in men's minds a pre-formation, or 
partial divination, of the truths that are to be revealed. Otherwise, it would be 
difficult to explain the frequent appearance in ancient cosmogonies of the ideas 
of a divine Triad, a Virgin Mother, or of a just victim. Moreover, if dogmas 
were not 'in the air' at the time the Prophet is speaking, he would not be 
believed nor understood. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

256 Writings in Time of War 

The time comes, however, when God, speaking through the 
Prophets or his Son, allows his influence to be openly apparent. 
He manifests himself as living and personal — at once one and 
three. Fides ex audita. 

At that moment, if the soul holds to its faith, its hitherto vague 
desires embody themselves around the new truth. Accompanying 
faith in the revealed dogma, it feels coming down into it a clearly 
defined, conscious need for that dogma. All revealed truth, 
accordingly, including even the distant Trinity, is seen by the 
soul henceforth to be indispensable to its beatification. 8 

Thus the felt attraction of Christ — which was almost without 
form, no more than a general summons to rise higher, in the 
pagan soul — gradually grows richer in power in the Christian. 
Step by step, it models itself on the articles of the Creed, as these 
successively make their way from inspired utterance into obedient 

Revelation creates spirits to the degree that it enlightens them. 

It is, therefore, a mistake to distinguish in man two different 
attractions that influence him: one, towards a hypothetical 
natural end of the cosmos, and the other towards the supernatural 
end that awaits us in the presence of God. There is only one single 
centre in the universe; it is at once natural and supernatural; it 
impels the whole of creation along one and the same line, first 
towards the fullest development of consciousness, and later 
towards the highest degree of holiness: 9 in other words towards 
Christ Jesus, personal and cosmic. 

8 Without this appeal, belief in this supreme dogma would never go beyond 
the stage of being strictly an epiphenomenon in our interior life. (Note by 
Pere Teilhard.) 

9 That is, first towards the fulfilment of the natural monads in se t and then 
towards their association in Christo. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

Forma Christi 257 


In eo vivimus, et movemur et sumus. 

For all its persuasive power, the growing magnetic force by 
which Christ draws us towards ever more intimate zones of his 
essence, is not sufficient by itself alone to attract us into his orbit. 

If we are effectively to fall under the domination of Christ the 
centre of the world (rex et centrum omnium rerum) we must of our 
own free will open our hearts to him. If we are really to enter 
into the chosen universe that is marked off around the incarnate 
Word, we must choose to form part of it. 

= Nothing, in the work of our 'information' by Christ, can be 
finally effected so long as we are not freely co-operating in its 

We may distinguish two stages in this collaboration of our 
freedom with God's creative and unifying action: through these 
two Christ's influence is brought to bear in turn on the two halves 
of our life, the passive and the active. 

The first step in our acceptance (the acceptance of passivities) 
consists in recognizing Christ's function as the universal sanctifier, 
as the higher soul within all things. It is an act of faith — faith of 
the intelligence, which accepts a new illumination — faith of the 
will, which surrenders itself to the guidance it has received and 
the promises that accompany it. 

That faith, whose influence, it would seem, cannot possibly 
extend beyond the strictest limits of our immanence [cannot be 
effective outside our own soul] is, in fact, extremely effective 
outside those limits. 10 

The first time a man says 1 believe', nothing outside his own 
soul appears to alter. In fact, through the words he has spoken, 
that man has produced a reaction in universal Reality. Hardly 
has he given his assent to revealed Truth, before all created 
powers are transformed, as though by magic, in the circle of which 
he is the centre. Natural forces, hitherto alien, hostile or ambi- 

10 Cf. Operative Faith (October 191 8). (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

258 Writings in Time of War 

valent, are without exception straightway charged for him with 
the influence of Christ. Suddenly, in fact, his individual world 
has entered into Christ's 'field of action'. 

It is no exaggeration to say that immediately there is adherence 
to revealed truth, the whole impact of the world on the man who 
has experienced this conversion, though it suffers no apparent 
change of form, takes on Christ in its inner substance. It becomes 
physically animated by a new finality, more interior than all 
others. To the soul of the believer, who is centred vitally upon 
Christ, the whole impact of things (natural in their foundation, 
supernatural in their extensions) brings a contact with Christ; 
he feels in them the touch of Christ's hand. And the more firmly 
he believes in his omni-dependence in relation to Christ, the 
more concrete, dominating, and assured becomes the omni- 
action to which he is subject: Credenti, omnia convertuntur 'in 
Christum . 

In order to respond to this universal attraction whose formative 
influence surrounds it on all sides, the soul, in its turn, strives by 
the means naturally available to it, to make its way, actively and 
positively, towards Christ. First the soul acknowledges its faith 
in Christ's own action, then it devotes to Christ all the work that 
it can itself achieve. To faith it adds right intention. And so begins 
the second phase of Christ's invasion of his universe. 

In virtue of the fundamental unity of our being and the world, 
we may already say of every upright man that everything he does 
on earth is ordered, more or less directly, to the spiritualization 
of the universe. The virtue proper to 'good will' is to harness 
this work for God, in other words, to make all progress (even 
natural progress and even in its opus materiale) we make in the 
development of Spirit serve the interests of the Mystical Body. 
Through its intention, which associates us with Christ as an active 
member, every effort we make reaches out, in its entirety, beyond 
ourselves: it makes its way to Christ, and serves him, living deep 
within us. 

A moment ago, because we had faith, it was the universe that 
took on the function (even through its material energies) of 
transmitting Christ's action to us. Now, because our will is 

Forma Christi 259 

directed to the good, it is we in turn who will contribute, 
through everything we do, to securing for Christ his integral 

Thus, through the combined power of faith and intention, a new 
world is formed for the Christian within things, without in any 
way changing the features of the old. At the heart of the universe 
a zone at once profound and simple is revealed to him, co- 
extensive with all created being. It is the zone in which 
Quidquid patimur, Christum patimur. 
Quidquid agimus, Christus agitur. 
Whatever is done to us, it is Christ who does it; whatever we do, 
it is to Christ we do it. 

Once we become conscious of this mystical atmosphere that 
extends on all sides, we feel the vast plenitude of the Incarnation 
being realized around us. 

d: the two phases in the growth of the soul 

Vivo ego—iam non ego: vivit in me Christus. (Gal. 2:20). 

Once it is at home in the mystical milieu, what must the soul do 
if it is to progress, to be continually more fully 'informed' by 
Christ? Is its primary duty to receive or to give? To enjoy or to 
suffer? To grow in accordance with nature's laws, or to accept 
annihilation? To empty itself of the world, or to drink its fill? 
to be attached to the universe or to scorn it? to live its own life, 
or to die? 

The great difficulty in all interior life is rightly to reconcile the 
active and the passive. 

If we are to offer as general as possible a solution of the problem 
of Christian ascetics, we must once again distinguish, in our 
minds, two phases in the growth of souls in Jesus Christ: the 
alternation and the combination of these phases accounts for all 
the contradictions we find in the behaviour of different saints. 

The first phase is one of a certain attachment to the world, a certain 
immersion in the universe. 

260 Writings in Time of War 

We must never forget that because a man turns to God it does 
not mean that he no longer needs to breathe, to take nourishment 
— to grow in stature in every way before his fellow-men. We 
must proclaim it from the housetops and in the places where men 
meet together: it is from the visible world that the soul draws the 
elements which grace divinizes ! It is the use of tangible realities 
that (as a general rule) widens man's understanding, toughens his 
will, arouses his power to love. Normally, the soul that wishes to 
belong firmly to Christ must make ready in itself, as the basis of 
its supernatural perfection, an abundant matter for sanctification, 
a rich nature. Science, the arts, industry, social activity — all these 
are necessary if we are to offer worthy material for Christ's 
influence. None of these should be alien to the Christian, precisely 
in his capacity as a Christian. 

Thus, supernaturalized man's first duty, both to himself as an 
individual and as an apostle to others, is so to make use of created 
things as to develop in himself, for Christ, a vigorous self. His 
first care — similar, though only apparently, to that of the pagan — 
must be to use human effort to extend in every direction that leads 
to spirit the still unfinished work of visible creation. 

= Without hesitation, as a matter of duty, in a religious spirit, 
the soul, in the first stage of its evolution 11 in Christ, plunges into 
created things. There, it allows itself to be swept along by the 
life-giving passion for enquiry, for discovery and creation. 

The soul that is true to life and to grace cannot continue in- 
definitely in this progress towards the full human development of 
its powers. It gradually becomes aware of the emergence from 
the very operation of its impulse towards 'self-hood', of a hostile 
component: this grows more dominant and will slowly reverse 
the direction in which the soul is moving. The form it takes is 
predilection for detachment. 

The effort that the natural evolution of the world imposes upon 
those who work to build up the earth, is one of extreme self- 
denial and altruism. 

It inspires them with an ardour to give their allegiance to an 

11 Though after a period of retreat, which allows it to develop its individual 
Christian outlook (the 'desert' period). (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

Forma Christi 261 

ever vaster whole, and this brings with it an habitual disregard of 
anything petty and individual. 

Finally, it makes them so conscious of the insurmountable 
barriers to be found in the restrictions of physical life that they 
dream of a death that will bring them release. 

The result of these three lessons that the soul draws from its 
experience of the world is that it has hardly arrived at the heart of 
things before it is ready to escape from them. Having taken its fill of 
the universe and of its own self, the soul one day finds that it is 
possessed (and this is not through disappointment but as a logical 
development of its effort) by an intense need to die to itself and to 
leave its own self behind. 

So begins the second stage in the soul's formation: the stage of 
detachment, or of emergence from the world. 

Henceforth, working upon a solid natural basis, upon a 
vigorous natural capacity for growth and self-forgetfulness, 
Christ's activity (with suffering as its most important instrument) 
will take the form of substituting Christ for the soul (of 'ecstasizing' 
the soul). The time has come for the creature who is dominated 
by Christ when l Oportet ilium crescere, me autem minui, when 'he 
must grow greater, while I grow less'. This is the hour of the 
specifically Christian operation, when Christ, while preserving in 
man the treasures of human nature, empties him of his ego- 
centrism and takes his heart — it is a grievous hour for our lower 
nature, abandoned to those forces in the world that bring dimin- 
ishment, but one full of delight for the man who has the light 
of faith and feels that he is being driven out of himself and that 
he is dying, under the compelling power of a Communion. 

Wholehearted acceptance of the world for Christ, rejection of 
the world in Christ — all the different shades of holiness are con- 
tained in the innumerable permutations of these two aspects of the 
breath by which the soul lives — first taking its fill of possessing 
tilings, and then sublimating them in God. 

1. Very often (in fact generally) the two phases of attachment and 
detachment arc fused together in the concrete reality (the psycho- 
logical unity) of a single disinterested effort. When man works to 

262 Writings in Time of War 

develop himself for God (to have a greater capacity for God), at 
the same time and by the same act his soul is personalized in se 
and depersonalized in Christo. 

2. Nevertheless, there is often also a disjunction between the two 
components (or at least a noticeable predominance of one over the 
other), and this imposes a pattern of oscillation on the movement 
in which we surrender ourselves to Christ. 

(a) It is not uncommon to find in the history of individual 
developments a distinct phase of growth (coinciding, naturally 
enough, with youth) which is followed by a period of suffering 
and detachment. 

(b) This reciprocating movement may recur several times in 
the course of one man's life, with a tendency always to become 
stabilized at a higher level, in a lesser degree of egocentrism (cf. 
below, 4); it is, however, only the reflexion on a smaller scale, 
of a much slower oscillation that affects the very life of the Church. 
The first centuries of Christianity, for example (think of the 
Desert Fathers !) were marked by a characteristic impulse towards 
penance and self-denial. It was Christianity's necessary initial 
reaction against pagan materialism, with a consequent un- 
mistakable emphasis on the specifically Christian orientation. 
Our own age, on the other hand, seems primarily to need a re- 
juvenation of supernatural forces, to be effected by driving roots 
deep into the nutritious energies of the earth. Because it is not 
sufficiently moved by a truly human compassion, because it is not 
exalted by a sufficiently passionate admiration of the universe, our 
religion is becoming enfeebled; even its capacity for detachment is 
impaired. We must have a great love for the world if we are passion- 
ately to wish to leave it behind. 

3. There is a predominance, more marked according to the 
period, first of one and then of another spirit, sometimes of 
greater and sometimes of less apparent austerity. 12 The Church, 

12 'Separatism' would be a better word than 'austerity' — meaning a separation 
between the Kingdom of God and the world. The effort of spiritual attachment 
to the natural universe is vitally essential; and it imposes a rigorous austerity on 
the souls of the faithful. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

Forma Christi 263 

however, has so many children that even so she can, at any 
moment you choose, show us examples of all the individual types 
of holiness. There are always, no matter when you look, some 
souls in the Church who are more particularly committed to the 
area of development, others to that of detachment, either because 
they are actually moving from one to the other, or because a 
particular vocation stabilizes them in one or other of these two 

4. Finally, it is important to note that the series of variations 
(either in individual lives or in centuries of history) successively 
assumed in the Church by the external form of detachment never 
passes twice through the same points: in its totality it forms a 
progressive evolution. 

In relation, more particularly, to the phase of attachment or 
immersion in the world, the level at which the soul has to seek its 
natural development certainly tends to become progressively 
higher. As creation becomes spiritualized, the earthly bread by 
which the higher part of man is nourished becomes less corporeal. 
To arouse and sustain their zest for living, the finest souls among 
us will continually and increasingly feel the need to turn towards 
purer and more generous-hearted interests. When that drift has 
gone as far as it can, one can imagine a mankind which (as 
happens with certain saints) requires only an extremely slight 
stimulus from sensible reality — a mankind naturally chaste and 
contemplative, in which individuals would almost at birth 
already be ripe for their 'depersonalization' in Jesus Christ. Only 
original sin, perhaps, prevents us from envisaging the full 
realization of such a hope. 

To sum up (and this is what we must be sure to bear in mind) 
neither of the two components of the interior life (growth, and 
then diminishment, both natural, in Christo) can or should 
destroy the other. There are not two opposed forms ofascesis, one 
of development and the other of mortification. There are two 
phases with a capacity to combine in a flexible and dynamic 

264 Writings in Time of War 

— sometimes in the (continuous) form of an effort instinct with 

— sometimes in the (alternating) form of oscillations between 
active enjoyment and passive acceptance. 

— sometimes in the (sporadic) form of peculiarly representative 
souls, whose totality is harmonized into a controlled (= human) 
and progressive whole. 

The second phase, which makes man glory in his painful 
annihilation in Christo, is the more beatifying of the two. It is the 
phase that imprints upon the soul the definitive form of Christ. 

We should never forget, however, that it is to the first phase 
that it owes its 'immediacy* and 'consistence*. 

Jesus Christ never establishes himself in a void — at Cana did he not 
tell them first to fill the jars with water? — It is by substituting his 
plenitude for another that he wins us — that is, by taking within us 
the place of our own self, and substituting his, own embrace for 
the universal embrace of created being that encloses us. 

The tougher, then, we have woven the stuff of our personality, 
the more passionate will our consciousness of the great universe 
have become. 

— and the more solidly, too, and completely will Christ be 
incarnate in us. 

Even when it is (in some way) gathered up again into Christ, 
the soul is not lost to the Earth that nourished it. Borne up by 
the cosmic power of Christ, and united henceforth to the ultimate 
principle of created life, its radiating influence is more vigorously 
and profoundly active in beings that still have to be made holy. 

Thus the two phases of the soul's development meet together 
in a common peak, and the soul finds itself in possession, at the same 
time, both of Christ and of the universe. 

e: the flesh of Christ 

Now that we have determined how Christ's universal influence 
is manifested — is established — and then develops in each soul, we 
may take another look at the general form assumed by the universe, 

Forma Christi 265 

when, in each one of its elements, it has become subjected to the 
humano-divine attractive power of Christ. 

Since the spiritual universe rests upon a basis of freedom, it 
does not, in its entirety, surrender to Christ's unifying action. 
Pauci electi — few are chosen. A portion of created being refuses 
to submit to Christ. Since this portion can find no natural centre 
of association outside Christ (cf. §A, pp. 252-4), it wanders 
aimlessly, indecisive and without unity, towards some mysterious 
opposite pole to Spirit. This is the damnation that banishes to 
outer darkness. 

The rest, the faithful mass, gradually comes together in an 
organic whole, enveloped in the folds — both natural and super- 
natural — of Christ's cosmic being, of his aura. 

What name shall we give to the physical influence exerted by 
Christ on his Mystical Body? To what sort of causality shall we 
reduce his quickening action? 

When the schoolmen try more exactly to define the nature of 
grace, they compare it to an accident. They are, obviously, 
speaking analogically and use the term for want of a better. 
When it is applied to a state of grace, the word 'accident' 
simply means 'that which does not change the human essence of 
the soul'. 13 

The use of the word implies no intention of including in the 
same positive series both the divine life in us and, for example, the 
effect produced upon us by a physical sensation. A sensory state 
of soul is an infra-substantial accident; sanctifying grace is a supra- 
substantial accident. As soon as we leave the area of experiential 

18 Similarly, when we say that the Word is united to the Humanity of 
Christ ratione Personae, non naturae (in virtue of person, not of nature), it is to 
emphasize that the divine Substance remains unchanged in the Incarnation: 
it is not, in relation to the Word, to rule out an activity that concerns the 
organic intimate union of the Christ-Man — in other words Persona is not an 
attenuation of natura. The phrase has a negative rather than a positive signifi- 

Similarly, again, when creation is compared to an efficiency, the word brings 
out excellently the distinction between the Creator and his work (that is to 
say, it is excellent as a refutation of pantheism) ; but it tells us practically 
nothing about the nature of the process that links uncreated being to participated 
being: on the contrary, it introduces between them an exteriority in relation to 
one another that is surely exaggerated. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

266 Writings in Time of War 

relationships, our logical categories are no longer exactly applic- 
able. They must be combined if they are to embrace supra- 
terrestrial phenomena. 

Subject to this express reservation, the word that comes 
nearest to a satisfactory definition of the universal influx of Jesus 
Christ, the Centre of the World, is 'information*. Christ en- 
compasses his mystical members in a higher finality, order, law of 
growth, and even a higher sort of consciousness. Christ really 
lives in us. What more do we need in order to be able to say that, 
in a real sense, he informs us? 

Christ, it is true, does not destroy nor dissolve us. He does not 
modify our nature nor wipe out our human personality — on the 
contrary, by melting us into himself he completes our differentiation 
as individual persons. 

This restriction, however, should not be understood as an 
attenuation. It is quite the opposite, a perfecting of the concept of 
'information*. If the life of Christ, when it takes possession of 
souls, allows them still to subsist as distinct beings within that life, 
this individuality they still retain derives from the fact that his 
influence is superior (not inferior) to that exerted by ordinary 
substantial forms. 

In truth, Christ acts upon us as a form, and the totality of souls 
ready to receive it is the matter which interiorly (substantially) 
takes on form in him. 14 

If we carry further this idea that our souls stand as matter in 

14 Figura Mundi: the new universe, reformed in Christ, does not owe its 
make-up exclusively to the elements gathered together in it under the influence 
of Christ. It owes its form (should we say principally?) to the individual 
characteristics of the Chosen-Christ. 

It may well be useless, therefore, to try to find for some of our dogmas (at 
least in their concrete mode of expression) a reason drawn from the general 
nature of being (created or uncreated). 

These dogmas (or these modalities) are perhaps individual features (reflecting 
individual preferences) of Christ (for example, the agony of the Redemption). 

The new universe must have certain very pronounced free, individual, 
characteristics, because it is fully realized in the sphere of a person. (Note by 
Pere Teilhard.) 

[The example chosen would not appear to be very happy. (Cf. the agony in 
the Garden of Olives: 'Not my will but thine be cone .)] 

Forma Christi 267 

relation to Christ (more spiritual than they are) who is their soul, 
it is tempting to say that the Resurrection of the Flesh — taken in 
its literal, physical, sense— is a superfluous fantasy, quite apart 
from being a humiliating form of benefaction. 

Why should we envisage this reappearance (not dogmatically 
necessary and debasing for our nature) of the obsolete part of our 
soul, the discarded chrysalis? 

Is it because an organic-multiplicity of spirits is not sufficient in 
itself to form a matter, a body, a flesh? 

There is here a double problem, and I shall not try to deal with 
it in its widest application. We want to know: 

(i) whether we can conceive monads capable of organizing 
themselves into a whole, without assuming them to be endowed 
with a more or less disguised materiality. 15 

(ii) Or whether at least (even if we were to suppose that such 
monads were pure spirit before they united) from the very fact of 
their association, some equivalent of materiality is not produced. 

We may answer that in the case of human monads die verdict, 
both of philosophy and of theology, is categorical: 'the mystical 
body of Christ is something more than a totality of souls; 
because, without there being present in it a specifically material 
element, souls could not be physically gathered together in 

Matter, it is true, is not the formal instrument of the union and 
interplay of the monads; 16 but it is matter that gives the things 
of this world their radical capacity of entering into higher or 
lower syntheses, under one and the same Spirit. The essence (the 
formal effect) of materiality would appear to be to make beings 
capable of unification. In this regard, there is no difference between 
the lower natural world and the new world that is being formed 
around Christ. 

15 That is to say, we must assume that there can be no pure Spirit other than 
God.* (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

* The proposition put forward here is not Thomist in its literal expression, 
but it is to be found in many Fathers of the Church and theologians (in- 
cluding, among others, St Bonaventure). 

16 It is a common soul, not a common matter, that binds together the 
created multiple at the various stages of its evolution. (See Creative Union, 
November 1917.) (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

268 Writings in Time of War 

If that is so, if every collective soul is born in our world 
through the instrumentality of a body, then Christ can con- 
summate our unity in the Centre that stands firm above us — the 
Centre, that is, which is his Spirit — only if he first encloses us in a 
material network underlying our 'esse corporeum\ If he is to be 
the soul of our souls, he must begin by being the flesh of our 
flesh. 17 

Hence the importance of the Eucharist. 

Now let us look at a human soul at the moment of death. 
Deprived of its bodily element, it should, in the natural course of 
events, wander through the cosmos with no precise attachment, 
ready to enter in many forms of combination but committed to 
none (cf. p. 252). 

The Resurrection benefits such a soul in two ways, con- 
tributing both to its happiness and its completion. 

(i) First, it gives it the natural joy it cannot do without of again 
belonging to a universe. 

(ii) Secondly, it brings it the supernatural grace of being 
called, in its quality as universe, to rejoin Christ and become 
integrated in him. 

This gives us some indication why the effective Resurrection of 
the body is postponed until 'the end of the world'. The restora- 
tion of the flesh is a phenomenon cosmic rather than individual 
in order. In virtue of the very essence of materiality, to raise up 
a single body from death is the same, for God, as to reconstitute a 
world. 18 

In fact at no time have there ever been souls wandering in 
complete isolation. From the very beginning of time (through a 
mysterious anticipation or pre-action — a notion we must always 
bear in mind), and from the first Easter morning in actual reality, 
'Christ is risen'. Since all time, therefore, souls, as they leave this 
world, have been passing, without any break, into the cosmic 
train of his body; and there they find the refuge of a new universe 

17 In other words we grow held between his flesh and his soul. (Note by Pere 

18 Pere Teilhard noted in the margin of this passage (starting with 'We may 
answer that in the case of the human monads'), 'a bit off the mark' ('Pas trh au 

Forma Christi 269 

that receives them. Even before death were they not already, 
through grace and the Sacraments, moving in its nascent spheres? 

We may well be amazed when we look at our world. 

Beneath the uniform drabness of man's restless activity, a 
cleavage runs through the whole universe, from the high peaks of the 
soul right down to the roots of matter. 

On one side, through a vast total made up of infinitely small 
efforts, through the accumulated effect of rightly directed in- 
tention and devotion to the Eucharist, an indestructible world is 
being built up by our souls and bodies, sheltered by the Flesh of 

On the other side, an aggregation of disconnected, uninformed 
monads is still held together by the terrestrial forces of life and 
matter; but, at the first breath of death that dust will be scattered. 

22 December igi8 

Note on 
the 'Universal Element' of 
the World 

The whole of this note, attached as an appendix to the manuscript of 
'Forma Christi, has been crossed out in pencil 

Pere Teilhard was evidently dissatisfied with it; as would appear, too t 
from the existence of a new essay entitled 'The Universal Element 9 in 
which, only two months later, he treated the same subject. 


The special bent, or attitude, of the cosmic mind (of which the 
pantheist mind is only one particular form) consists essentially in a 
modification (change) undergone by the concrete being of the 
world (to esse rerum), as seen by the intelligence. Whereas, as a 
general rule, men turn their attention to the individual, plural, 
forms of things, the 'cosmic' mind (which enjoys a cosmic vision) 
is primarily aware of their common basis. This basis seems to it to 
become continually more luminous, real, and individual — so much 
so that the particular determinations of concrete things tend to 
interest the soul less and less, as though they were dissolving into 
a higher entity. This transformation (or manifestation) of the 
universal stuff of the world, we should note, is an experienced 
psychological^*; in other words it is an intuition, pre-intellectual 
in order and is not the fruit of a chain of reasoning. It is basically, 
therefore, beyond the reach of criticism: it exists. However, 
when we try to explain this — when the man who has that 
intuition tries to interpret and rationalize his feelings — we find 
ourselves very much at a loss. However the explanation may be 
expressed, it is generally wrong because the terms it uses are 

In the language of pantheism, the 'universal element' we 
glimpse is sought for in the direction of matter, or is, at least, 
conceived by analogy with matter. There are idealist forms of 
pantheism that are highly spiritualized; but even to these the 
unique substance is no more than a refinement of the astral matter 
of the theosophists, or the physicists' ether. Pantheists see 
universal Being as a basis which has the capacity to manifest itself 

Note on the ' Universal Element 9 of the World 273 

in an interplay of shifting forms, but which is .at the same time 
strictly independent of the subsistence of those forms. The 
Absolute is an Amorphous from which everything emerges and in 
which everything is lost again. Individual determinations have 
no absolute value. The 'seer' can devote himself to the search 
for the basis of things, can wrap himself up in it and be absorbed 
in it, without any logical need to concern himself with the 
laborious progress of evolution. 

Note: this paragraph is too cut and dried. In fact, in addition 
to materialist pantheisms (which look for the 'universal element' in 
a plastic or informable principle of the world) there is a whole 
category of spiritual pantheisms (which believe that this element 
may be found in a plasmatic or informing principle — vital or 
intellectual — of the universe). 

One can, for example, conceive a theory in which universal 
Being could be seen in the form of a soul which is the Soul of 
the World, in process of being formed from the sum of all 
individual souls — these being particles of it. This theory differs 
from the theory I am adopting only in this respect: it regards the 
universal Centre of the world as entirely immanent, and the 
monads that concentrate around it are (or rather become) 
entirely divine as they join it. 

If we start from rational principles such a theory must be 

One might perhaps add that, for all its apparent appeal, it does 
not fundamentally satisfy the mind's 'cosmic* impulses. In fact, 
the universal element glimpsed in the 'cosmic vision 5 is not only 
something that is everywhere present: it is also, and primarily, 
something Absolute. This 'absolute' character, it would seem, is 
essentially lacking to a mere sum-total of contingencies, which is 
what a World-Soul, purely immanent and in a real process of 
becoming, must be. — ? Spiritual pantheisms (as defined above) 
can, it is clear, admit an absolute Form (a 'Word') into their 
universe, only if they attribute to that Form a certain trans- 
cendence (by making it emerge from the stream of evolution). 

23 December 1918 

274 Writings in Time of War 

In this interpretation of the 'fundamental vision' it is the lower 
stuff of beings which is regarded as divine; and nothing has true 
existence except that stuff. Everything, therefore, is substantially 
divine . . . On the other hand, however, everything — if we go 
far enough back — sinks into an abyss of indetermination and of 
pure multiplicity (comparable to the prime matter of the schol- 
astics). Pantheism is philosophically catastrophic; and the seer 
who hoped that it might teach him to make palpable contact with 
the Divine, finds that he is grasping a handful of dust. 

The doctrine developed above (in Forma Christi: see also 
Creative Union) enables, I believe, the 'cosmic-minded' to justify 
their fundamental vision of universal Being without falling into 
these errors. It teaches, in fact, that the entitative formula for every 
created being (E^. E^ . . . E n ) is as follows: 

E 1 = (e 1 )X 

E2 = (e 2 )X 

E n ={e n )X 
e i9 e 2 • . . e«, being the individual nature of each being; and X 
representing a determination higher in order than the individuality 
of the monad — a determination common to all monads — which 
constitutes the monads as elements of a determined universe. 

If the universe is regarded in relation to its term (the total 
Christ, in casu), it is not in fact an aggregate, but an organic 
whole of a higher entitative order than that of the elements 
considered in isolation. The universe's own particular form, 
therefore, must be impressed upon each monad by some deter- 
mination higher in order than the degree of being found in the 
monads considered separately. That is the function of this 
universal element, X, the principle of super-individualization 'quo 
unumquodque ens perficitur 9 entitative, sub ratione adoptionis suae in 
tali universo — 'by which each and every being is perfected, 
entitatively, in virtue of its reception into such a universe'. 

In our universe, X is the penetrating influence of Christ-co, of 
Christ- 1 Forma-Mundt. 

If we admit the existence of the universal element X, it is evident 

Note on the ' Universal Element 9 of the World 275 

that the mind's 'cosmic aspirations' are satisfied, in a way that 
answers the requirements of dogma, of philosophy, and of 
practical life. 

In the first place, X is not an epiphenomenon, a local and 
partial adjunct. It is an entitative influx, recasting and re-forming 
all the lower degrees of being in the monads it acts upon (in con- 
formity with scholastic teaching about the * Analogy of Being 9 ). It 
can, therefore, be grasped in the whole of everything, giving 
every individual object its final value, significance, and con- 

In spite of this 'final' purpose, and this universal intrinsicism, 
X does not destroy the natures it envelops (cf. p. 266), 1 but com- 
pletes them. Unlike the pantheist universal element, it enters into 
things in proportion to their degree of differentiation, spiritualiza- 
tion and sanctification. The more dominating its position in the 
monads, the more fully are they realized *in unitate universx . When 
the common basis of beings predominates over individual forms, so 
far from causing them to disappear, it accentuates them still more. 
One might say that it is born from the confluence of their accentua- 

Thus, instead of being, as it is in pantheism, a lower universal 
basis — the matter of Matters — the universal element is seen to 
be the higher Centre common to all developments, the Form of 
Forms. 2 

The man to whom it has been given to enjoy the l cosmic vision \ 
no longer vague but distinct (that is to say to see Christ as more 
real than any other reality in the world, Christ present and 
growing greater in all things, Christ the final determination and 
formative principle of the universe), that man may truly be said 
to live in a zone into which the confusion of no multiplicity can 
penetrate, and in which, nevertheless, the work of universal 
fulfilment is the most actively pursued. 

1 In Forma Christi, above, p. 266. 

2 Is not this precisely the definition of the Word? 

— In short, one may say this: instead of looking for the universal element in 
an informable principle of the world, we should recognize it in an informing 
supreme principle. If that principle is not operative, we immediately have 
multiplicity. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

276 Writings in Time of War 

Let him but be shown once more the inaccuracy or the error 
in the terms in which he is trying to embody his experience — 
and, in all patience, he will seek for another form of expression. 
But his vision will remain with him. 

22 December 1918 

The Promised Land 

Shortly after finishing his 'Note pour servir a V Evangelisation des 
temps nouveaux 9 , Phe Teilhard went on leave, and then returned to 
his regiment in the village of Goldscheuer, in Baden. It was there that, 
in a few days, he wrote 'The Promised Land 9 . In this he was trying 
'to determine just what remains to us from all the effort we put into the 
war, in the disappointments oj peace \ and 'to show that it's the aware- 
ness we acquired, for a moment, of the spiritual strength contained in 
unity 9 . 'Not without some hesitation, 9 he sent the essay to Pere de 
Grandmaison 'not so much for publication — Yve no illusions about 
that — as in order to get his advice and let him see what definite line of 
thought Tm adopting. (Letters of 13 and 19 February, 1919, in 
'Making of a Mind 9 , pp. 283, 283) In the event, 'The Promised 
Land 9 was to remain unpublished. On March 3th, Pere Teilhard 
wrote to Marguerite Teillard, again from Goldscheuer: 

'Yve had a long letter from Pere de Grandmaison. 'The Promised 
Land 9 , of course, will never be published— I expected that. At any rate, 
Pere Leonce takes my views seriously — and that 9 s something achieved 
already. I realize that in this last essay Yve attributed considerable 
importance to human views of progress — which obviously lays it open 
to a good many objections. I wrote back to Pere de Grandmaison at 
equal length; and I believe that my position in this matter remains 
pretty clear 9 (p. 289). 


— And was peace, then, no more than this? 

— The peace that all through these long years was the brilliant 
mirage always before our eyes. 

The peace that gave us the courage to hold fast and to go into 
the attack because we thought we were fighting for a new 

The peace that we hardly dared to hope might be ours, so 
lovelv it seemed . . . 


And this is all that peace had in store for us ! 

After five years of darkness, the sun has at last risen over the 

And when we look around us, eager to welcome the first 
signs of a universal spring, the face of the Earth seems to us as 
drab and cheerless — even more cheerless, some of us say — than 
when autumn had stripped it bare. 

For a moment men knew real emotion, they were united, they 
were raised above themselves, in the defence of a common cause; 
but danger has no sooner relaxed its grip than they have fallen 
back into their jealous, self-centred, isolation. Draw up war's 
sorry balance-sheet and what do you find: much corruption, 
much shameless exploitation, much utilitarianism, and under- 
lying it all a deep and shocked disgust at so much evil suffered or 
inflicted to no purpose. 

What, then, was the point of so much generous effort? Why 
did we fight so well? 

Is it because all the hard work life obliges living beings to 
undertake is simply a perpetual snare, one disillusionment 
following upon another, so that no progress is ever made? 

That would be a terrible fact to have to accept. 

For if progress is without doubt illusory, then nothing in fact 

The Promised Land 279 

has either the right or the power to make us hold firm to our 
human task. The sensible thing to do is to follow the line of least 
resistance and maximum enjoyment. 

We thought that peace would lead us into a happy land. And 
so far, alas, all we have found is disappointment, and even (if we 
drink the dregs of our bitter draught) something much worse 
than disappointment: doubt. 

Doubt, a fundamental doubt that questions the very value of 
human action, haunts our minds, and its shadow lies heavy on our 
courage. 1 

Before the fog of commonplace experiences and narrow 
personal interests closes down on my horizon — while I still retain 
the last impressions of an existence that in a few months' time will 
seem to be a dream — in this cold Rhenish plain where the ex- 
piring life of the battlefield lingers on in the occupation of enemy 
territory — I asked myself the key question: 

'By condemning or justifying our confidence in the betterment 
of man, should the results of the war logically destroy or intensify 
our zest for action?' 

Here, step by step, are the considerations that clarified my 

First, there came into my mind the multitudes of lives which 
the war, after purifying them in the furnace of trial, carried away 
to regions beyond our range of vision. 

Then I remembered the long series of those whom I had seen 
with my own eyes gradually become masters of their souls in the 
sacrifice of self they made for a sacred cause — until finally duty 
called for their whole being. 

I multiplied my own experience a thousandfold, by as many 
thousands as would be needed, I suppose, to equal the hecatombs 
sacrificed in all the battles we fought, put together. 

And then I remembered our dead. 

All these heroic lives seemed to me to escape from the earth, 
under the breath of war, like sparks blown by the wind from the 
blacksmith's fire. And I might have understood that the reason 

1 The doubt that questions the value of action was constantly to reappear in 
Pere TeilharcTs writings. His answer to it was the doctrine of irreversibility. 

280 Writings in Time of War 

we suffered was in order that this glittering shower might burst 
forth, had I but been able to see the living flame with which the 
souls of the fallen were to be made one. 

But that flame cannot be seen from the earth. It shines in 
another sphere of our universe. 2 

It was then that I had to recognize that the heavenly glory won 
by our fallen friends could not be precisely the compensation for 
which I was looking — the compensation that would give me 
fresh heart as a man to accept the losses suffered during these last 
years by our generation. 

We must, I fear, admit that a harvest of the elect — however 
real and final the use it makes of our sufferings — cannot be the 
immediate reason that justifies all the effort we have made and all 
the blood that has been shed. 

Because — Earth comes before Heaven — and: Life comes before 

If our earth is to produce a richer crop of souls, greater in 
number and holiness, one thing above all is necessary: the soil of 
the field in which they grow must be made more fertile, and the 
stem that bears us all must be strengthened. 

The impulse set in motion by the war was a deep-rooted 
instinct to preserve the race and add to its greatness. Can we 
say that peace is bringing us the happiness of satisfying that 

The perfecting of the lives lost to us cannot give us the only 
answer we await to the horror of all the evils we have suffered: 
only one thing can do that, an unmistakable betterment of life on 
earth, here below. 

Either the final purpose of the universe is almost entirely 
beyond our grasp, or a great terrestrial effort (by which I mean 
not an effort made by an isolated individual but one that involves 
three-quarters of mankind) must be matched by a result of the 
same order — that is, of the terrestrial order. 

Can it be true that nothing good and durable has been intro- 
duced by our patience and heroism into the hereditary stock 
from which all the souls that follow us will be born and 

8 The same idea is found earlier in La Grande Monade. 

The Promised Land 28 1 

If we think about it seriously, we shall see that the whole 
future of mankind's effort is covered precisely by that question. 

Time and again during the war I told myself, to keep alive my 
courage and the joy of battle, that our work, in some hidden way, 
was a collaboration in a great visible enterprise. 

It seemed to me impossible that the upheaval of nations in 
which we were taking part, should not serve to produce a better 
organization of the world. On the whole, the dominant forces in 
nature work for good: otherwise, how could life ever have cleared 
the way that led to man? And it is ultimately the best that profits 
from any freedom accorded to the elements to follow the course 
indicated by their desires. History teaches us that, by and large, 
the world emerges from the melting pot on every new occasion 
in better shape. 

In the present case, the conflict seemed to be a clear-cut choice 
between might and right. We seemed, in the thick of the 
fighting, to be witnessing what was without any doubt an 
attempt by mankind to concentrate upon an ideal. Never had 
men fought for such immense and such selfless ends. This great 
tumult was indeed the smelting of a precious alloy that discards 
the dross. 

But beneath the rejection of noxious elements we thought, did 
we not, that we could distinguish the first outlines of a new 
organization of mankind taking shape — what one could almost 
call the birth of a soul. The war was a crisis of growth. The 
youthful envelope of a new humanity could be seen beneath the 
cracks of the old husk. 

For five years I lived in this belief in the value of the war; and 
even now, for all the disillusions of peace, I still have faith in life. 
The power that during millions upon millions of years of 
vicissitudes finally perfected the human brain cannot have 
exhausted its strength and vigour. 

Our blows have gone home; our efforts have borne fruit — even 
here below. The world is better because we shed even our life's 
blood to resist evil. And, if the call came, I would enlist again 
under that banner. 

282 Writings in Time of War 

But have I the right to impose my belief upon others? 

That part of our history which is patient of measurement is so 
short that it is impossible to prove geometrically to the wilfully 
blind pessimist that we are in fact ascending. 

What can we say to such a man that will make him accept the 
reasonable probability of our vision and bring him to share our 

The pessimist will not agree that this time our patience has 
succeeded in making the world organically superior. 

Can we not show him at least that we have won the right to 

No one, I imagine, will deny that during the war a considerable 
portion of mankind went through a unique psychological ex- 

Never since man existed, probably, has so large a number of 
individuals been governed by so strong a common compulsion. 

We know that a proliferation of many types of vice was one 
of the results of that ordeal; but those were no more than waste- 
products or parasitic growths; for all their glaringness, they were 
only secondary effects. 

What was the essential effect produced by the extraordinary 
stimulus of those circumstances, upon the healthy, soundly- 
rooted, part of our race? How did the central core or axis of 
human life react? 

There can be no doubt that the reaction was an extraordinary 
release of spiritual energy. 

In widely different orders — economic, industrial, moral — we 
have witnessed the production of efforts that intelligent men 
would have said were impossible to realize in normal times. 

Under the pressure of an urgent and noble common necessity, 
men have displayed a capacity for hard work, for selfless enquiry, 
a strength of will, a devotion, that until then they hardly sus- 
pected they possessed. 

Wherever the radiating influence of the sacred cause was most 
active, men found a power of union, an impulse of common 
feeling, a capacity for sacrifice, that for a moment swept away all 
differences and multiplied their energies tenfold. 

The Promised Land 283 

During the war, men without any doubt attained (at least for 
a few moments) a domain of higher spirituality in which their 
individual faculties were magnified and ennobled in the carrying 
out of a collective enterprise. 

They felt more free, and stronger, in the consciousness of 
Some Thing that encompassed and transcended them all. 

That is the central fact that, amid all the uncertainties and 
heart-burnings of peace, we should retain as the permanent 
lesson of the war. 3 

Is it rather fashionable now to ridicule the notion of a hallowed 
unity? to laugh at the brevity of its life? to emphasize the 
renascence of human ill-will? to insinuate that all these fine 
appeals to an international ideal are no more than a cloak for the 
intrigues of politicians and financiers? 

Deep within myself, and because I have felt its power, I know 
that a real and specifically new wind has just breathed over the 
soul of man. Moreover, I cannot believe that man could, even 
for a moment, have crossed the threshold of that zone where 
effort brings solace and unity, without retaining for all time the 
beginnings of a habitus, a vague nostalgia. Once again, however, 
I keep to myself a conviction that is not imposed by the 

Supposing, then, we admit that this fine emotion we ex- 
perienced when we stood by at dawn in the front line has indeed 
vanished without trace from the earth. 

Insignificant though the event may seem, to prove my point I 
shall confine myself to the single undeniable fact that^br a moment 
mankind was the better for having lived for a few months under 
the influence of a common ideal: for this, I claim, is all we need 
if we are to be able to retain intact, and even give new life to, our 
confidence in the value of human effort. 

To share in a hallowed unity, even for a split second, is enough 

3 The preceding pages recall the experience analysed by Pere Teilhard 
in La Nostalgie du Front. At the same time they bring out his optimism, 
based on a forward-looking line of thought that already, at the very 
moment of the catastrophe, is alive to the progress which it will help to 

284 Writings in Time of War 

to enable us to glimpse the future promised to our species, and to 
find the road that will lead us to it. 

So long as we had not been tried and tested, we could reason- 
ably ask whether there still remained a reservoir of vitality in 
the human stock. 

The history of the earth shows us certain animal forms 
stabilized permanently in their type. Since the most distant ages 
they have always been exactly die same, as fixed as chemical 
substances, while all around them any number of new forms were 
being born and dying out. 

Had not we, too, the latest comers into life, become like those 
animal forms, destined, like them, to stagnate at our present- 

Our minds and our hearts, eminently the seat of life's progress 
— had they not exhausted their power of development? Were 
we justified in envisaging new forms of growth for the human 

The war gave us the answer to this anxious questioning of 
ourselves, by releasing from the depth of our nature a living 
spring of moral intensity and beauty. 

It would be false to despair of our future on earth, to deny the 
treasures still hidden in the human soul, for, if only for a very 
brief moment, we have seen and touched and known those 

No, my fellows, we are not a withered branch on the tree of 

When it came to the test, abundant resources were found in the 
storehouse of our being. In a practical experiment, short but con- 
clusive, we were able to measure the evolutionary reserves, the 
potential, of our species. We are still a long way from having 
released all our energies. 

But what is needed, to call up those energies from the depths in 
which they are stored, to rouse them from their slumber? 

The war exerted upon us an activating force, a force of mutual 
attraction and cohesion directed against evil and for only a moment: 

The Promised Land 285 

now another cause must emerge to direct that same force per- 
manently and towards good. 

The defence of sacred interests aroused in us, as a temporary 
reaction, the consciousness of all working together in a task as 
great as the world itself: now the pursuit of a positive ideal must 
give us that same consciousness, never to be lost. 4 

Is it, in truth, impossible for love to create among us the soul 
of union that fear made palpitate with life? 

Here we come to the heart of the lesson taught us by the war: 
the condition of human progress is that men must at last cease to live 
in isolation; they must learn to recognize a common goal for their 
lives (a goal set before them for ever in their heaven, transmissible 
by education, attainable and perfectible by disinterested re- 
search) — and the fiery energies still undoubtedly smouldering in 
men must be fanned into flame and directed in common towards that 
end — not in an individual, nor in a national, nor in a social, but in 
a human effort. 

This common higher goal, this longed for ideal, whose 
magnetism is to bring us together and make us more perfect, 
exists, we need have no doubt, in natura rerum: for, if there is one 
principle that is verified by universal experience, it is that 
every hungry mouth has, somewhere, its own bread waiting for 

All that matters for mankind is to be faithful in the effort that 
will win the nourishment prepared for us. 

There are, of course, hazards to be faced as we pursue our 
task. Just as an individual can ruin his life, so (though with much 
greater difficulty) can a whole race. 

Of one thing, at least, we may be certain: we have all the 
strength necessary to complete the work of Spirit upon earth. 
Our future is in our own hands. 

And now, after reasoning as a man, I shall speak as a Christian. 
The ideal upon which the energies of human life must con- 
verge if they are to grow, is already with us: we know it — for 

4 On more than one occasion Pere Teilhard was to draw up in similar terms 
the programme for a true peace, to be understood not in a negative but a 
positive sense: not as a mere negation of war, but as its transformation. 

286 Writings in Time of War 

thousands of years its clarity has shone upon us: it is Christ, the 
King and Centre of Creation. 

Why is it, then, that his action is not giving greater warmth 
to our hearts; why is it taking so long to produce a general 
'convection current' towards him, in which mankind will be 
raised up and informed? 

For some centuries there was reason to believe that the human 
race was on the point of grouping itself upon Christ as its Centre; 
and then this progress towards the organization of the world in 
Christo seemed to hesitate and slow down. 

What lack, then, in the inhabitants of the earth must be made 
good, if Christ is to draw them to him and inform them — more 
completely, until we have the totality of a single world — more 
profoundly, until we have the unity of a single life? 

What we are failing to do, perhaps, is to offer to Christ, in our 
nature, this greater soul — fully terrestrial and human — that. was, 
for a while, instilled into us by the imminence of an extreme 
common danger. 

Had Christ come down upon earth in the time of Abraham or 
Moses, we can well imagine that — apart from a miracle — men 
(precisely as St John expressed it) would have failed entirely to 
understand him. Their natural soul, the stage they had reached 
in their humanity, would not have been capable of receiving 

Are we not witnessing a similar inability? 

If Christ has not, as yet, aroused in men the great impulse 
towards him that his dignity is building up for him, may it not 
very well be because the natural disposition of men (taken as a 
whole) which should allow them to respond to what is most 
active (or at least most final) in the influence of the incarnate 
Word, is not yet sufficiently mature? 

Men still lack a sense, without which they cannot see the full 
beauty of Christ and feel the full force qua sibi omnia possit sub- 
jicere: the sense of the unity they are summoned to constitute, 
and of the universe which contains them. 5 

In order finally to triumph on earth or at least (if it is true that 

5 Pcrc Teilhard's apologetics relies more on the natural value of man and his 
development, than on some lack which Christ's action makes good. 

The Promised Land 287 

mankind is to come to an end in a great spiritual schism) 6 to 
reign in his fulness over the elect portion that has chosen his side, 
Christ, I imagine, is waiting for the human race to raise itself, by 
a natural effort which he assists, to the degree of higher moral being 
that will make every man fully conscious of all things; in other 
words, he is waiting for them to be fully men. 

Under whose influence will this wider consciousness of our 
existence and our duties ultimately be developed in us — for we 
as Christians must devote much of our apostolic care to fostering 
that influence? 

Will it be produced simply by the combined action of Christ 
(whose love will inspire our work) and of terrestrial discoveries 
and upheavals (which will gradually enlarge the circle of our 

Or will it come about quite differently? Will some inter- 
mediate ideal between Christ and our race be developed, in the 
form of a terrestrial enterprise to be safely achieved — an ideal by 
which 'spiritual* men will feel themselves magnetically drawn: 
that ideal being a more tenuous form of the attraction exercised 
by, a natural reflection of, a dawn heralding the coming of, 
Christ the only Centre of the universe? 

No man can tell us, nor in fact do we need to know the 
answer. The road will open up as we advance. It is enough for 
us to know that the way ahead is clear. 

Come, then — life still retains its beauty. Since the great 
conflict from which we are emerging has enabled us in the end 
to understand our vocation and to feel the vigour of our youth, 
we must not grieve at the cruelty of war nor the anticlimax of 

For all the dullness and drabness that have returned to life, for 
all the contradictions in a society that is again fragmented, I shall 
patiently take up once more my everyday tasks, guided by the 

6 Cf. The Struggle against the Multitude: 'Under exactly the same appearances, 
the two opposite principles draw to themselves their faithful, leading them 
either to simplicity or to the Multitude (above, p. 113). Faith in Man (1947, in 
The Future of Man, pp. 187-9). The Phenomenon of Man, pp. 288-9.) 

288 Writings in Time of War 

light that I saw for a few brief moments, when millions of us, in 
one body, felt ourselves united, through life's deepest roots, in a 
great cause. 

I shall advance into the future with the new strength of my 
twofold faith as man and as Christian: for, from the mountain 
peak, I have seen The Promised Land. 

Goldscheuer (Baden), February 1919 

The Universal Element 

Pere Teilhard wrote to his cousin Marguerite Teillard-Chambon, from 
Goldscheuer (Alsace) on 19 February 1919, and after telling her that he 
had finished 'The Promised Land' , continued: 'I've already begun, and 
got well into, 'The Universal Element 9 , for which, as you know, my 
ideas were already completely in order. It wont be long, but clear and 
full of substance. It will, I think, be the most central exposition of my 
ideas I've yet produced; and so I'll be able to make good use of it to let 
people know and assess my position, in a private way. I find it 
interesting to look back on the road I've travelled since three years ago 
(exactly), when I was writing 'Cosmic Life'. I find that I'm now con- 
cerned with just the same problems and see them in just the same way — 
but I have them much straighter in my mind and have a better grip on 
them. Three days later, on the 22nd, he writes: 'I'm sending you by 
this post a little notebook containing 'The Universal Element'. You'll 
find that, basically, there's not much that you're not familiar with'. 
There is another reference in a letter of the 28th, again to his cousin: 
'When I was writing 'The Universal Element', I remembered some 
things that Frangoise once said to me — when she was already a Little 
Sister — about the unique and beatifying importance that the reality of 
God had assumed in her life — and I felt that I understood that we were 
fundamentally much more like one another than I had thought before. 
The only thing was that she was following a road where the realities of 
the world were much more obscured or left behind than happens with 
me'. ( 'Making of a Mind', pp. 285, 286, 288.) 


Unum est necessarium 


Many men (or all men, one should perhaps say, if they analysed 
themselves more carefully) feel the need and capacity of appre- 
hending a universal physical element in the world, which establishes, 
at all times and in all things, a relationship between themselves 
and the Absolute — both in them and around them. 

This element can be glimpsed (by minds that are sufficiently 
receptive or informed) as a common fringe on the outskirts of each 
of the great operative processes or main directing energies of our 

(a) It sustains and carries further (in the form of a vivid feeling 
of omnipresence) the feeling we experience of the Real and of our 
own reality. 

(b) It constitutes the essential value, the absolute kernel, which, 
if we are to have the courage to act, we need to feel present in 
everything we do. 1 

(c) It represents the stable and incorruptible zone in which we 
take refuge from the vicissitudes, the hazards, the precariousness, 
the losses, we meet on the immediate plane of existence. 

Our perception of the Universal Element does more than 
touch on all our interior experiences, once they are taken far 

1 This need would not appear to be an illusion. For my own part, without 
any interior 'faking', I can say that I feel it distinctly — so much so that it seems 
to me that life would be a real factual contradiction, its emergence into con- 
sciousness would destroy it, if reflexion led us to the conclusion that all our 
actions were completely contingent. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

The Universal Element 291 

enough and analysed in sufficient depth: it also has an urge to 
invade them (or, which comes to the same thing, to emerge from 
them) in such a way as to force us to take exclusive account of a 
Unique Essential (unum necessarium) in whose activity we are 

Beneath the absorbing influence of the universe that envelops 
us, beneath the personalizing activity of successful human 
achievement and the centrifugal effect of sorrow — something that 
is unique in essence can be distinguished, and we feel an urge to 
transport ourselves into it. 

Throughout life, there thus takes place in us, in the order of 
concrete action and physical reality, a psychological phenomenon 
that is exactly analogous to the logical abstraction by which we 
apprehend the Ens ut sic, and probably as essential to the mind as 
that function, with which indeed it may well at times have been 
confused. Thus there develops in souls that have an unusual 
capacity for this special intuition, a specifically characteristic 
psychic state — 'cosmic consciousness*. 

For a mind that is in this state of cosmic consciousness the basis 
of things (a certain, ill-defined, basis, that is) tends to predominate 
over the detail and to obliterate the plurality of beings. It appears 
to such a mind that concrete Being itself (t6 esse rerum) becomes 
individualized and takes on consistence, beneath the experiential 
Multiple. The shimmer of a sort of precious fabric can be dis- 
tinguished beneath the accidental determinations of existence. A 
new unique tint spreads out at the heart of the now transparent 

Cosmic consciousness is often born and periodically comes to 
life again, in crises when the mind is gripped by an extremely 
vivid feeling of presence. Such a state of exaltation, however, is 
not essential to its life. 

In its normal state, and completely dispassionately, a soul can 
act 'habitually' with the breadth of view (characteristic of the 
cosmic consciousness) which enables it to do everything cum 
respectu ad omnia and to see all things sub ratione universu 

If it is to make so constant an appeal to our minds, and to 
dominate them so powerfully, the Universal Element cannot 
possibly be an illusion, zfgmentum mentis. Somewhere there must 

292 Writings in Time of War 

be something that corresponds to cosmic 'abstraction* and con- 
What name can we give to this mysterious Reality? 


The Nature of the Universal Element 

a: the pantheist solution 

A first answer — the most obvious and the only one generally 
entertained — is the pantheist answer. 

From the pantheist point of view, everything in the universe 
is seen to be radically One, Absolute, and Divine — either because 
the universe is born from an involution (deduction) of thought, 
or because it emerges from an evolution of matter. 

Everything that exists is (or becomes), in the whole of its self, 
identical with God. 

Understood in this sense, the Universal element embraces all 
[comprehensive and extensive — individually and collectively) ; and 
everything becomes indistinguishably identified with it (more or 
less directly). 

(i) On the one hand, no peak of the Absolute rises above the 
multiple elements of the world (= it is absolutely immanent in 

(ii) On the other hand, it tends to absorb them completely 
(with nothing left of their individuality) in itself (= it is, strictly, 
the only thing that exists). 

— either because the mutual opposition of the parts of the 
universe represents only a transient illumination, at the end of 
which the various individual determinations must revert to being 
dissolved in the Homogeneous. 

2 Pere Teilhard indicates on his manuscript that he is using the Latin adverbs 
comprehensive arid extensive, by accenting the final vowels. 

The Universal Element 293 

— or because their differentiation and the progress they make 
are used for building up a consciousness, a universal soul, in which 
every elementary consciousness is destined to be lost. 

= in the monist view, the Absolute is integrally convertible into 
its fragmentary elements, and vice versa. 

The pantheist universal element may rationally be criticized, 
on the ground that, by combining in itself two contradictory 
properties (necessity and contingence) it is something unthink- 

What is more to the immediate point, and belongs to the same 
order of ideas as that with which we are now concerned, is the 
further objection that it does not meet the demands of cosmic 
consciousness, even though it is nevertheless presented as alone 
capable of satisfying its desires. 

What, in fact, is cosmic consciousness? It is, essentially, the 
need for, and joy in, union with Another (this Other being the 
universal element). 

But there can be no 'Other (and, even more certainly, no 
higher Other to whom one can give oneself) when all the parts are 
equal in dignity, and associate together in virtue of a mutual 
attraction that is completely absorbed in their mass. 

Nor can there be any 'union', when the term of conjunction is 
strictly single. Union presupposes, up to the very limit of its 
perfection, duality beneath unification: otherwise it completely 
changes in nature and loses all its attractive force. 

By reason, therefore, of the two most essential characteristics 
of its nature (total immanence, absolute monism) the pantheist 
divine cannot be the universal element which experience reveals 
to us. 

Pantheism cannot satisfy a truly cosmic mind. 

This conclusion may seem a paradox. It will, however, 
astonish only those to whom the search for the universal element 
appears a specifically pantheist concern and enterprise. 

In reality, cosmic consciousness is a psychological fact much 
more ancient and surely established than any philosophical 
system. To realize that this is so, one has only to think of the 
poets, thinkers, visionaries, whom it has for centuries been 

294 Writings in Time of War 

inspiring — followers of the most diverse philosophies and 

What I would like above all would be to show, just as I feel, 
that it reaches its full and legitimate development in Christianity. 

b: the christian solution 

The Christian who is animated by cosmic consciousness, must 
hold above all else that God, the only Absolute, is essentially 
distinct from creation. 

Nevertheless, if he is to be able to love and worship God 'with 
all his heart' he has a need that will take no denial to apprehend 
the divinity under the form of a universal element. 

What physical relation, between the transcendent Absolute and 
the universe, what emanation or influence, can he find that will 
satisfy, without doing violence to his faith, his impassioned vision 
of a supreme 'cosmic' Reality, present in all things? How can he 
reconcile in his mind the law of his Church and the law of his 

Let me point out three successive stages which I myself in real 
fact went through, before I arrived at a satisfactory solution of 
this interior problem of making one's way to God in all the 
sincerity and fulness of a soul that is irrevocably 'cosmic . 

(i) The first 'universal Reality' that offered itself to my mind, 
in the domain of divino-terrestrial forces, was the Will of God, 
conceived as a special energy instilled into beings to animate 
them and order them towards their end. 

If the Will of God is seen with sufficient intensity and realism 
it positively transforms the universe. It animates and softens all 
that we suffer; it stimulates and directs all that we initiate; it 
abolishes chance. It makes it possible for us to live, physically and 
for ever, within the divine Unity: that unity comes to us through 
all the influences to which we are subject — and we, in turn, 
through our obedience, become the instruments, we become an 
extension of, even members of, that unity. 

For a long time this was the only vision that filled my life, as 
giving me God, universally immediate and tangible. 

The Universal Element 295 

Gradually, however, I came to feel that the divine Presence of 
which I was thus assured did not come up to the measure of my 
experience or satisfy my desires. I was eager for something more 
—and I felt that there must be something more — in the universe, 
between God and myself, than a perpetual and universal contact 
in self-surrender and action. 

Through the Will of God, universally seen and apprehended, 
I was becoming (and all things were becoming for me) instru- 
ments of God. What I wanted was to see that I was in some way, 
in virtue of my religious faith, an element of God — and to see all 
things share that quality with me. 

(ii) Thus I found it necessary to give greater precision to my 
first approximate explanation of the dogma and of my own 
instinct, and so to accept God's creative action as the universal 

In that new form, I could already see God as entering the 
sphere of external experience in which we move. Animating the 
great natural currents of life and matter, he penetrated into my 
own personal essence and into the development and growth of all 
things. He was the soul of everything that moves, the support of 
everything that exists. This stage corresponded more or less 
exactly to the views developed by St Ignatius in his meditation 
ad amorem. 

Here again, however, I soon came to feel that something was 
lacking in the terms I was using to express the Reality, the 
intimate quality, of the Universal Presence experienced. 

Even when seen as the supreme cause, God was still too 
separate from the world to satisfy me. Even when involved in 
his creative action, I was still not, in relation to God, the ex- 
tremely lowly element that I felt myself to be — that I wished to 
be. And, on his side, God was still not the higher element, 
infused into the universe, through which the Absolute entered 
into my body and spirit. 

For all God's intermixture with my being through his almighty 
action, there still remained between him and me a hiatus, a void, 
an icy gap, representing the distance that separates necessary from 
participated being. I felt that I was not united to him but juxta- 

296 Writings in Time of War 

With creative action, in fact, I still remained in the domain of 
efficient causality. What I was looking for was a flow of formality 
from God into myself, through the medium of the world. 

(iii) It was only after writing an essay entitled The Mystical 
Milieu that I arrived at a conclusive explanation of what I felt. At 
last I found within myself the name that Christianity gives to the 
universal Reality I had worshipped so long: it was 'the cosmic 
influence [life] of Christ 9 . 

However, before explaining this unusual expression, I must 
add a comment of the philosophical order on the way in which 
we should conceive individuals in the universe. 

As a result of the more restricted necessities of practical life, 
we have become accustomed to considering persons (monads) as 
the natural, complete, units into which the world can be broken 
down. When we speak of 'a soul', we believe that we are 
thinking of an independent reality, co-terminous with itself, 
separable in its identity from other souls and even from the 
universe. This pluralist concept may well be most inaccurate. 

Certain though it is that Peter and Paul are two definitively 
separate and contrastable beings, so long as we remain on the social 
plane of present-day mankind, it is equally probable that if we 
consider them as situated in the total universe, neither of them can 
attain his full personality, his full significance, his full determina- 
tion, except within the general design of the world. And this 
probability would become a certainty, if we knew that, in 
virtue of its nature, the universe was moving towards a total end. 
If such an end does in fact exist, then every being (in as much as 
it is essentially an element of such a universe) has its own par- 
ticular essence crowned by a certain quality, a certain form 
(common to all) which makes it an integral, rightly adapted, part 
of the single Whole with which it shares a natural harmony, 
'qua constituitur eletnentum talis Universi. We must say of every 
man that he contains in himself, besides a body and a soul, a 
certain physical entity that relates him in his entirety to the 
universe (the final universe) in which he reaches his fulfilment. 

This is because, strictly speaking, there is in the universe only 
one single individuality (one single monad), that of the whole 

The Universal Element 297 

(conceived in its organized plurality). 3 The unity or measure of 
the world, is the world itself. 

Once we have understood the nature of this 'cosmic composition 
of created being, and have appreciated the closeness and universality 
of the ties it forms with the Multiple, Christ's features take on an 
extraordinary sharpness and immediacy — and the meaning of 
Scripture is given incomparable clarity and depth. 

We know from what St Paul and St John tell us that Christ is 
the Centre of Creation, the Force that can subject all things to 
itself, the term by which all things are informed. 

What can we learn from those names given to Christ, if we 
look back at what we have just been saying? 

The answer is unmistakable: that in every creature there exists 
physically (in virtue of Christ's having been chosen to be the Head 
of the Universe), besides the individual material and spiritual 
characteristics we recognize in it, a certain relationship that all 
being has to Christ — a particular adaptation to Christ of created 
essence — something of Christ, in short, that is born and develops, 
and gives the whole individual (even the 'natural' individual) its 
ultimate personality and final ontological value. 

In virtue of even the natural properties 4 of the Universal 
Centre, the mystical Body of Christ is haloed by a cosmic body, that 
is to say by all things in as much as they are drawn by Christ to 
converge upon him and so reach their fulfilment in him, in the 
Pleroma? We can live and act, immersed for ever in this living 
atmosphere co-extensive with the world. It is through and 
within the organic unity of the total Christ, it is under his formal 
influx, that God's will and his creative action finally come 
through to us and make us one with him. 

In our world, when it is supernaturalized, the Universal 

3 This in no way obliterates lower individualities or persons, for these 
belong to another order. (Cf. below, §111, p. 299.) (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

4 God, as the only supernatural being, has, strictly speaking, no natural 
property. What Pere Teilhard seems to mean by this expression is the pro- 
perties of the Universal Centre in their relation to nature. 

5 Christ, according to St Paul, is both the head of the body of the Church, 
which includes only his members, and, extending beyond this central whole, 
the head of all creation. The totality of creation united to Christ as its head 
constitutes the 'Pleroma'. 

298 Writings in Time of War 

Element is ultimately Christ, in as much as everything is inte- 
grated to it and consummated in it. It is the living Form of the 
incarnate Word, universally attainable and perfectible. 6 

With ever the same brilliance in all, Christ shines as a light at 
the heart, to which none can ever penetrate, of every life, at the 
ideal term of every growth. Everywhere he draws us to him and 
brings us closer to himself, in a universal movement of con- 
vergence towards Spirit. It is he alone whom we seek and in 
whom we move. But if we are to hold him we must take all 
things to, and even beyond, the utmost limit of their nature and 
their capacity for progress. 

Of the cosmic Christ, we may say both that he is and that he is 
entering into fuller being. 

He has already appeared in the world; but a long process of 
growth awaits him in this world, either in isolated individuals — or 
still more, perhaps, in a certain human spiritual unity, of which our 
present society is no more than an adumbration. 7 

The whole function, and task, and drama of the universe — the 
whole economy of human progress, of grace, of the sacraments 
(the Eucharist) take on their ultimate significance in this indi- 
vidualization of the Universal Element in which the Incarnation 

6 Perfectible not in itself, but in the sense that it can inform a greater or 
smaller number of souls (or inform souls to a greater or less degree) according 
to whether they submit to Christ or reject him. 

7 It is possible in fact that side by side with our supernatural unification in 
Christ a natural unification of Spirit may be taking place in the world (= the 
work of natural human effort, the natural term of progress), the latter providing 
the foundation for the former. On that hypothesis, Christ would act vitally 
upon the universe by means of (by taking the place of) what would almost be 
a 'Soul of the World*. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

The Universal Element 299 


The Properties of Christ, 
the Universal Element 

We can see, then, that what characterizes the Universal Element 
as we find it realized in Christ, is not that it is a quasi-matter, a 
plastic or informable element, an agent of absorption, but a 
quasi-soul, a plasmatic 8 or informing element, a force of deter- 
mination. 9 

The unique, universal, necessarium, so defined, possesses the 
twofold power 

(i) of dominating us, as a power that assimilates us. 

(ii) and at the same of completing us individually to the degree 
that it fuses us into itself. 

The transcendence of God, and the persistence of human 
personality — necessary conditions 

of Christian orthodoxy 

and of the complete satisfaction of our cosmic desire (cf. p. 289) 
— are thus completely safeguarded. 

Through the totality of its properties, the Christian Universal 
Element is seen to be capable of uniting upon itself the most 
diametrically opposed tendencies of both human thought and 

(i) Fundamentally, it effects within itself the union of God and 
the world. The two supreme loves, the natural and the super- 
natural, that, seen from one angle, appear to draw our hearts in 

8 The manuscript reads pldstique, where the sense calls for plasmatique, which 
we find, moreover, in the 'Note on the Universal Element (p. 273). 

9 We should add, a force of union and therefore of consolidation. The 
consistence of being lies in spirit (the principle of union) and not in matter 
(the principle of disintegration). 'Everything hangs together from on high/* 
through the soul and final purpose. The Universal Element (the total Christ) 
is thus, in one sense, ultima substantia rerutn. (Note by Pere Teilhard.) 

* See above, Operative Faith, p. 240. 

300 Writings in Time of War 

contrary directions — towards the kingdom of heaven or towards 
mastery of the earth — are reconciled in the impassioned quest for 
the cosmic Christ. 

The two stars, whose attractive forces seem to conflict with 
one another, are seen to be in reality each an extension of the 
other: it is through the fulfilment of the world that we reach Christ. 

(ii) In our own particular destiny, this conjunction manifests 
itself in the reconciliation (already pointed out) of the One and the 
Multiple. Through the extreme perfection of its action, the Form 
of Christ allows the determinations of the element it integrates in 
itself to subsist, and even accentuates them. It unites us to itself 
to the degree that each one of us, according to our vocation, is 
more fully differentiated. 

(iii) We can thus, in our effort to enter into Christ, make equal 
use (according to circumstances) of either of the two extremes to 
which our will may be directed: we may both surrender ourselves 
and resist, accept and fight. On the one hand, if we have faith, the 
irresistible forces of life and matter become^r us, in very reality, 
the organizing activity of Christ assimilating us to himself. 10 On 
the other hand, since all well-ordered activity here below is 
directed towards Spirit, and Spirit towards Christ, our total human 
effort (the more it is undertaken with good intention) collaborates 
in the plenitude of the Incarnation. All Christian imperturbability 
in the face of earthly vicissitudes, and all human enthusiasm in the 
face of a world to be conquered, are reconciled in those who have 
built their lives in the 'mystical milieu constituted by the 
Universal Element. 

(iv) The more, following every human line of development, 
we seek to win the unique necessarium in the fulfilment of our 
own personality and of the world, the more it leads us, through 
its universal embrace, to reject our self-centred interests for ever 
more immense ends. Moreover, as a result of its tendency to 
isolate itself (in the pure state) from the particular forms in which 
we apprehend it (cf. p. 290), it gradually causes us to enter into a 
close and direct relationship with itself: when we contemplate it, 
when we make it the object of our prayer, we are transported to 

10 See above, Operative Faith and Forma Christi; also Le Milieu Divin, pp. 

The Universal Element 301 

the vital point to which all things flow together and become open 
to influence in the depth of their spiritual being. The effort we 
make within that element to realize ourselves according to the 
fulness of our powers, thus ends in making us renounce ourselves, 
and become stabilized in an inflexible tension — and that is the 
most effective form of action. 

= The Universal Element makes the transcendent immediate; it 
unifies, by differentiating, the Multiple; it allows us to complete what 
already exists and to win full possession of what we already hold; it 
detaches us from the world by attaching us to it. 

In that element, the apparently most incompatible attitudes of 
monism and pluralism — of (moral) pragmatism and self-surrender 
— of contempt for the world and the cult of the earth — are 
effortlessly combined. 

Through that element, it becomes possible to use all life's 
forces to produce one and the same real thing. 

If, in conclusion, I had to sum up in one word the 'spirit' and 
course of life of the man who has seen the smile of the universal 
Christ at the term of all things, I would choose the word that 
narrow usage has made offensive: Integrism} 1 

Integrism in purity — that goes without saying; and it means, in 
the first place, the authentic Christ, Christ in his truth and super- 
naturality. Simply in that form, without further qualification, 
Christ has the power to conquer the world and incorporate it in 

But integrism, too, in universality — not a single element of 
created energy, not one iota of the redeemable world, must be 
lacking to the plenitude of Christ. 

Around every distinct truth there spreads a penumbra, and at the 
root of every disciplined energy there lies a disorder, which 
absolute-minded men fear and wish to suppress, in their anxiety 
to include in their inflexible systems nothing that is not certain and 
crystal clear. They forget that the area of uncertain illumination 
and ill-defined aspirations that they reject from their universe is 
not a by-product or waste product, but the living surface of the 

11 Offensive, because of its association with ultra-conservatism in the 

302 Writings in Time of War 

Spirit of man: they are trying to cut away the sap-wood and yet 
keep alive the heart of the oak. 

Not only so that no chosen particle may be omitted from the 
Pleroma (nothing is so small as to be inessential to its totality) but 
so that the universe may be given its true form under the influence 
of Christ, we must bring about the reign of Christ even — indeed, 
above all — in the continually nascent fringe of the world. 

The first privilege of the incarnate Word — and the most 
powerful appeal he makes to our generation — is that he is the 
Principle in whom the universe develops. 

Above all, then, we seek Christ in his integrity. 

21 February 1919 12 

12 Cf. p. 289. 



Abraham, 286 

absolute, 75, 290, 295; consciousness 
of, 27-8 ; and the cosmos, 46 ; and 
the individual, 44-5; and panth- 
eism, 292; thirst and quest for, 54, 
124; universe's task of producing, 


abyss; of fragility and contingence, 
227, 229 

action; Christian value of temporal, 
52-3; and the mystic, 132-5, 140; 
of the mystic aimed at achievement, 
137; value of human, 219, 279 

Activation de Vinergie humaine, L\ 

Aeschylus, I95n 

analogue; transformation of pre- 
existing, 83 

analogy; theory of, 83n 

anthropocentrism, 83 n 

ascesis, 71 

Atomisme de I'Esprit, L\ 12m 

atoms, 18, 19, 22, 26 

attachment; fusion and disjunction 
of a. and detachment, 261-4; 
spiritual a. to universe, 262n; to the 
world and growth of soul, 259-60. 
See detachment 

Augustine, St., I23n, 2ion 

Barthelemy-Madaule, M., ii7n, H9n 
Beatrice, 191, 199 
Beaulieu-les-Fontaines, 115, 149 
becoming; curve of, 154 
being; to be is to be united, 152; 

cosmic composition of created b., 
296-7; higher degrees of, 32; idea 
of personal, I45n; individualization 
of concrete b. beneath multiple, 
291 ; and the multiple, 95 ; and non- 
being, 107; relationship to Christ, 
297; suffering and pain essential to 
simplification, 11 1; unification of 
beings, 109-14 

Benoit, Pierre, O. P., 2o6n 

Benson, Robert Hugh, 189 

Bergson, Henri, 24, 95n, 157; and 
notion of vital impulse without 
final purpose, 159 

Bernard, St., 2i2n, 2l6n 

Benille, Cardinal Pierre de, 2i4n 

better-being, 32 

Blondel, Maurice, I34n, I42n, 24on 

Body of Christ, 16, 61, 75, 81, 109, 
216, 269; centre of universe, 58; 
conception and realization, 49-52; 
consummation, 62-3, 65; and 
moral value of human acts, 53-4 ; 
and spirit of enquiry, 220. See 

Bonaventure, St., 267n 

Boule, Marcellin, I27n 

Boussac, Pierre, 73 

Boutroux, £mile, 80, 8on 

brain, 24, 34, 78, 281 

bread; symbolism of sacramental b. 
and wine, 209-10 

Breuil, Abbe* Henri, 205n 

Brownian movement, 105 

Buddhism, I26n 



Caiaphas, io6n 

cells, 19, 26, 37 

chance; control by Christian faith, 
237-8; forces of, 227-8; and God's 
role in direction of world, 239-40; 
mastery by boldness, 234-5 

Chanteur, Pere, S. J., 203-4 

charity, 51, 83, 85, 112; action on 
beings, 172-3 ; law of Christian c, 
107; rift in, 180, 184; spiritualizing 
effect, 108-9 

chastity, 172 

Chavannes-sur-l'&ang, 203, 225, 

Chemin des Dames, 115 

Christ; bond of all created things, 
I42n; centre of creation, 297; 
centre on which sufferings con- 
verge, 67; centre of universe, 257, 
287; cosmic being, 52, 265; cosmic 
function, 252-4, 256, 275, 298; 
cosmic influence, 296; gradual and 
creative attraction, 253-6; human 
nature of, 106; king and centre of 
creation, 285-6; and modern man, 
184, 185 ; must be loved as a world, 
148; mystical and cosmic body, 
175; Omega, 274; personal and 
loving infinite, 52; plenitude of, 
175-6, 205, 210, 221, 223, 297n; 
prime mover of universe, 106-7; 
and renunciation, 54; realization in 
evolution, 63 ; and sanctification of 
human flesh, 64; term of natural 
evolution, 59; threefold plenitude, 
211-12; total, 216, 251, 274, 297; 
unifying action, 1 10-12; universal, 
12m, 208, 210, 211-12, 301; uni- 
versal physical element in, 252; 
victorious over multitude, 105-7. 
See Body of Christ; Incarnation; 

Christ in the World of Matter, 10 

Christian; choice confronting, 17; 
and collaboration with develop- 
ment of cosmos, 62-5; co-opera- 
tion with progress, 73; the ideal, 
88-90; and sacred duty of research, 

Christian Science, 236, 242 

Christianity; aspects brought out by 
Teilhard, 10; conception as cos- 
mogony, 250; divorce between C. 
and world theoretically possible, 
83-4; failure of, 179-80; need for 
rejuvenation of supernatural forces, 
262; personal and cosmic charac- 
ter, 46-7; reconciliation between 
C. and the world, 75-6 

Christie theme, 10 

Christique, Le t 9m, i2on, 207n 

Church; acceptance of progress, 88; 
apostolate in modern world, 10; 
attempt to control mankind and 
knowledge, 86-7; clash with earth, 
85; and detachment, 263; dislo- 
cation between Christ in C. and 
human ideal, 180; insistence on 
value of matter, 64; role of 
magisterium, 90; and science, 88, 

Claudel, Paul, 20m 

Coeur de la matiire, Le t 78n, n8n, 
I23n, 177 

Comment je vois, 152 

communion; in action, 133; with 
God through the world, 187-8; 
phase of c. with universe, 125-6; 
universal, 214-18; of will, 216 

communion of saints, 48-9 

Compiegne, 203 

complexification, 154-5, *57*> adum- 
bration of Teilhard's theory, 96n 

concupiscence; of the flesh and of the 
mind, 102-3 ; threefold, 222 

consciousness, 155; birth of, 96; life's 



movement towards greater c, 24, 
32; power of re-emergence, 41; 
and complexity, o6n 

consecration; symbolism of bread 
and wine, 209; of universe, 205, 

consistence; 123, 125, 127, 128, 145 

contingence, abyss of fragility and 
c, 227 

Contingence de Vhumain et go&t humain 
de survivre, 152 

convergence, evolutionary, 157-8 

cosmic Christ, 57-9, 62, 70; prayer 
to, 69-70. See Christ; Body of 

cosmic consciousness, 291, 293-4; 
and pantheism, 293 

cosmic currents, 25 

Cosmic Life, 10, 13, 70-1, 75, 88n, 
116, I45n, 168, I75n, 2i4n, 238n, 

cosmic mind; and Christ, 275; and 
vision of universal being, 272, 

cosmos; consciousness of, 27-8, 30; 
effect of consciousness, 41; final 
purpose, 251-2; forward drive, 17; 
and law of recurrence, 19; of 
matter, 16; polyvalence, 238-9; 
potentialities, 34; summons of, 32, 

creation; continuous, 60-1, 130; to 
create is to unify, 95 ; positive non- 
being subject of, 163-4; a single 
continuous evolution, 252. See 
being; creative union 

creative union; and act of creation, 
151-2, 156; and Christ, 174; and 
creative evolution, 157; and exist- 
ence of real and transcendent 
centre, 158-162; fundamental law 
of, 171, 172; and the future, 169- 
70; philosophy, 174-6; sets up re- 

lationship between spirituality of 

soul and complexity of body, 165; 

and transience, 167-8. See creation 
Creative Union, 10, 2on, 94n, 151-2, 

186, 187, 24on, 274 
Cross; meaning of, 67-8; mystery of, 

81; symbolism, 71 
crystal, 19, 158, 165 

damnation, 209n, 214, 21 8n, 265. 
See hell 

death, 73-4, 102, 105, 221 ; dark side 
of, 230-1; and the mystic, 132; 
power of Christian faith to over- 
come, 241-2; transition to new 
life, 173, 213 

decentration; of individual, 42 

democracy, 77 

depersonalization; in Christ, in, 
262, 263, 264 

detachment, 75, 213, 251 ; and attach- 
ment, 21 3n, 261-2; fusion and dis- 
junction of attachment and d., 
261-4; and love for the world, 262; 
second phase in growth of soul, 

determinism, 14, 21, 23, 26, 33, 39, 
227, 229, 230; and freedom, 40; 
freeing of spirit from d., 232; 
mastery of, 17 

Devaux, Andr6-A., n8n 

disorganization, 26 

divine ambience, see divine milieu 

divine milieu, no, 123, 133, 14011, 
i69n; first called universal milieu, 
i2on; focus of all energies, 128; 
formed by incorporation of elect, 
209n; and the mystic, 134, 137 

dogma, 256 

duality; arbitrary d. of cognitive 
order and real order, 162 

duty of state; in evolving universe, 
54n, 68n 



earth; quest for truth, 85; man's love 
of, 101; rupture between e. and 
Church, 85. See world 
Eddy, Mary Baker, 23 6n 
effort; collaboration of total human 
e. in plenitude of Incarnation, 300; 
human e. and Christian faith, 244; 
natural e. assisted by Christ, 286; 
war and future of human e., 280, 
egoism, 41, 66 
Einstein, Albert, 2on 
electrons, 19 
elite; emergence of, 35 
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 236n 
inergie devolution, L', I28n 
fenergie humane, L\ i28n, 21 5n 
inergxe spirituelle de la souffiance, V, 

I28n, 21 3n 
energy, 128-30, 145; convergence of 
human energies upon Christ, 285- 
6; dissipation, 22; mankind's po- 
tential energies, 284; spiritual e. 
released by war, 282-3 
Eternal Feminine, The, n8n, 191 
ether, 25, 29, 41, 96; notion of, 19-22 
Eucharist, 50-1, 109, 146, 269, 298; 
extensions, 207n, 208; importance, 
evil; and matter, 38; overcome by 
Christian faith, 241; physical and 
moral, 71 
evolution; centre of universal e. real 
and transcendent, 160-2; common 
soul of, 22; completion of cosmic 
by man, 33; convergent, 157-8; 
divinized in eyes of mystic, 137; 
individual, 26; irreversible, 79; 
limitless duration of e. and im- 
mensity of universe, 166; present 
trend psychological, 37, 64; psycho- 
logical, 78-80; reality of, 
154; and religion, 87; religious 

phase, 84; sacred character, 17, 
60-3 ; stirs up mankind, 78 
extrinsicism, 73 

failure; and success, 54, 66-8 

faith; boldness of Christian £, 
247-8; Christian f. and mastery of 
the future, 237-40, 243-5; 
Christian f. : vision and action, 245- 
7; natural f. and mastery of the 
future, 233-6; transformation by, 
215; transformation effected by 
operative f., 257-8 

faith-healing, 236-7 

Faith in Man, 287n 

fall, see original sin 

Fathers, of the Church, 50 

fecundity, 86 

feminine; discovery of, n8n; essen- 
tial £, 192; eternal f. and diviniza- 
tion of cosmos, 201-2; and forces 
of attraction, 193; and life, 193-4; 
and man's love for woman, 194-6 

feminism, 77 

fire, 128, 129, 218; f.-theme, I42n; 
and transformation of the mystic, 


Foligno, St. Angela of, 60, 148 

Forma Christi, i76n, 178, 2o8n, 2i3n, 
2i5n, 22m, 238n, 247n, 249, 271, 
274, 30on 

Fort-Mardik, 70 

Foussemagne, 203 

fragility; abyss off. and contingence, 

Francis of Assisi, St., 52, 148 

freedom; of choice, 133 ; and deter- 
minisms, 40; individual, 26. See 

fuller-being, 32 

future; 153, 169-70; chaotic appear- 
ance explained, 240; consistence of 
f. condition for consistence of 



unity, 169; man's dread of, 226-8, 
231; mastery by science and by 
natural faith (critique), 232-tf; 
operation of Christian faith on f., 
237-40, 243-5 ; unity a condition of 
mankind's f., 283-4 
Future of Man, The, 78n, 79n, 177 

God, 16, 297n; centre and Infinite, 
48; and communion of saints, 49; 
creative action, 60-1; effort to- 
wards, 76 ; faith in G. and in world, 
59; love of G. and world, 55-7, 
62, 299-300; and the multiple, 95; 
reconciliation of G. and world, 
188, 190; source and end of uni- 
verse, 81; supreme dependence on, 
148-9; transcendence and im- 
manence, 215; will of G. a special 
energy, 294-5 

God-Man, 16 

Goethe, Wolfgang, 191 

Goldscheuer, 277, 288, 289 

grace, 48-0* 50, 65, 83, 188, 265; 
analysis, i9on; and the mystic, 134 

Grande Monade, La, 10, 28on 

Grandmaison, Leonce de, S. J., 
225, 277 

habit, 39 

harmony; final, 41 
Hastings, 78n 
hell; and damnation, 69 
heterogeneous; cycle of the, 136 
history, 63 

holiness; maintains effect of evolu- 
tion, 109 
homogeneous; cycle of the, 135-6 
Horace, I27n 
Hymn of the Universe, 11, 207n, 2i8n 

idealism and matter, 40; religion of, 
234-5, 232 

Ignatius Loyola, St., 2i7n, 295 

immobilism; effects of, 85-6 

Incarnation, 50, 51, 58,61, 106, in, 
2o6n, 253, 259; divine substance in, 
265n; individualization of Uni- 
versal Element, 298; plenitude of, 
300; redemptive, 59 

indetermination; levels of, 252 

individual; cosmic task, 41; decen- 
tration, 42; freedom of, 77; sacri- 
fice of the i., 44-5 

individuation, 118; crisis of, 104-5; 
pain of, 101-2 

infinities; Pascal's twin, 19 

information; active and passive col- 
laboration in Christ's informing 
action, 257-8; by Christ, 266, 286; 
and growth of soul, 259; of uni- 
verse by Christ, 253, 297 

insects, 39 

integrism, 301 

intelligence; and making of universe 

intention; pure, 216, 220; right i. and 

faith; combined power, 258-9 
intuition, 40 

irreversibility; doctrine of, 79n, 279n 
isolation; pain of, 100-1 

Jacob, 65 

James, William, 189 

Jehovah, 89, 254 

John, St., 50, 58, io6n, 175, 250, 286, 

Journet, Mgr. Charles, 24on 
joy, 124, 126, 127, 221 

Kosmos; and the Oikoumene, 239J1, 
See cosmos 

Laigue, Forest of, 203, 225 
Letters from a Traveller, 93, 2ion 



life; advances threatened by perfec- 
tion of spirit, 173 ; ascending move- 
ment, 24, 31-2; concentration on 
perfected consciousness, 37; ex- 
tension of matter, 23 ; faith in, 43 ; 
and the feminine, 193-4; function 
of matter, 29; impulse given by 
God, 61 ; tree of life, 36n, I94n, 
284; and unity of universe, 23 ; zest 
for, 148 

liturgy; and cosmic Christ, 58 

love: ambivalence of human, 196; 
and contact with universe, 195 ; and 
creation of world, 189; feeling 
underlying all mystical systems, 
121, 182; force of unification, 192; 
of God, 6$, 83 ; of God and faith 
in the world, 9m; of God and of 
the world: synthesis, 250-1; 
human, 194-6; human and divine, 
I20n; idealization, evolution and 
spiritualization, 198-200; of others, 
143; physical, 170-1; and recon- 
ciliation of God and universe, 190; 
and social groups, 172; a spiritualiz- 
ing force, 197; and union, 170-1, 
i89n; and virginity, 197. See 

Lubac, Henri de, S. J., 11, 83n, 88n, 

Lutheranism, 244 

magic, 234n 

Making of a Mind, The, 9, 10, 74n, 8on 
et passim 

man; axial position, 3611; capacity 
for extension, 16; cosmic tempta- 
tion, 16; function to complete 
cosmic evolution, 33; and human 
inter-relations, 37; individual an 
observation post, 14; and mankind, 
36; passion for selfish develop- 
ment, 173; penetration of world 

into, 1 17-19; still lacks sense of 
unity, 286; transcendence, 35-6 

Manichaeism, 93, 163 

mankind; changes in activity of mass 
of m., 76-8 ; conditions of success, 
161; dedication of man to, 36; 
God personified in, 61 ; and revela- 
tion, 82-3 ; task of maintenance of 
material economy, 82; war crisis of 
growth, 281 

Man's Place in the Universe, i3on 

Mary, 59, I34n, 144. 198, 201, 25511 

Mass on the World, The, 10, I42n, 

Mastery of the World and the Kingdom 
of God, 10, 73-4 

materialization, 39 

matter, 22, 25, 28, 267; absorption 
by spirit, 41 ; analysis of, 19; cosmic 
role, 64-5; fecundity, 33; and life, 
23, 29; man's dissatisfaction with, 
38 ; mastery of, 36, 40; and mastery 
of the universe, 33-4; psychic 
concentration, 158; reactions of 
spirit on, 37-8; surrender to, 29- 
32; temptation of, 32; transience 
and multiplicity, 40; transition 
to spirit, 39; true m. is spirit, 

Mericourt, 249 

Michelson, Albert, 2on 

Milieu Divin, Le, 10, 15, 54n, 88n, 
12m, i27n, i32n, 14411, 20m, 20711, 
21 3n, 21 5n, 2i7n, 24411, 247n, 
30on; spiritual teaching adapted to 
every Christian, 22m 

millenium, 241 

miracles, 241 

molecules, 19, 26, 36 

Mon Univers (1918), 9, 10, 24on; 
meaning of title, 24m 

Mon Univers (1924), 152, I56n; 
meaning of title, 24m 



monad, 19, 22; centres of same 
sphere, 15; common genesis, 23; 
human m. cosmic, 15; inaccuracy 
of pluralist concept, 296; inte- 
gration of human m. in higher 
organism, 36-7; intellectual, 40; 
internal structure imperilled by 
sin, 103; lower, 29; primacy, 47; 
sanctified, 47; survival, 45; unity 
of origin. See soul 

Montreux-Vieux, 225 

Mooney, Christopher F., S. J., 252n 

morality, 85-6, 172 

more-being, 73 

Moses, 286 

Mourmelon-le-Grand, 190 

Moyvillers, 225 

multiple; and creation, i64n; ex- 
periential, 136; individualiza- 
tion of concrete being beneath the 
m., 291; initial, 192; origin, 152 
a power of dispersion, 159; re- 
conciliation of one and m., 300; 
and the sinner and the saint, 108; 
substratum of spirit: its nature, 
162-3 ; ties of created being with 
m., 296-7. See multitude 

multiplicity, 24, 22m; dissolution 
into, 124; infinite m. and creation, 
164; in man, 99; and matter, 40, 
124; of rational monads, 252. See 

multitude, 18, 21, 26, 40; of beings, 
122; Christ principle of unity 
victorious over m., 105-7; and 
crisis of individuation, 105; of 
human souls, 172; and nothing- 
ness, 94-6; overcome by purity, 
107; rages at border-line of body 
and soul, 99; restructured, 146; 
at root of evils of man, 98; and 
simplification of being, m-13; 
simplified m. and final consum- 

mation, 1 1 3-14; and sin, 102-3; 
spiritualization, 109 

mystic, 123, 124, 125; and action, 
132-5, 140; characteristics and 
special faculty, 119-20; and death, 
144; fundamentally human, 140; 
and liberation of spirit, 137-9; and 
the real, 139; task of, 129; trans- 
formation by fire, 143-4; universal 
passivity, 130-2 

mystical body, 51, 58, 64, 67, 69, 
146, I72n, 175, 187, 213, 297; 
more than totality of souls, 267; 
notion of and creative union, 174 

mystical milieu, 125, 135, 138; and 
Christ, 144-5; collaboration in 
establishment^ 257-9; a complex 
element in process of becoming, 
137; constituted by Universal 
Element, 300; cosmic body of 
Christ, 175; reappearance as divine 
milieu, I48n. See divine milieu 

Mystical Milieu, The, 10, 11 5-16, I22n, 
I75n, 182, 21 in, 295-6 

mysticism, 121; Mystical Milieu in- 
troduction to, 147-8 

Nant-le-Grand, 74, 76 

natural; and supernatural, 5911 

naturalism, 85, 235-6 

nature; mastery of, 33; and super- 
natural, 2i9n; and temptation of 
matter, 31 

necessity; abyss of, 229-30 

Nieuport, 13, 18 

non-being, 20, 153; and the multi- 
tude, 94-5, 103 

noosphere; concept of centration of, 
34n; identified with soul of the 
world, 178 

Nostalgie du Front, La, 283n 

Note on the 'Universal Element 9 of the 
World, 22m, 271, 299n 



Note pour servir i Mvdngflisation des 

temps nouveaux, 88n, 277 
nothingness, 94-5 

Oikoumcne, 239n 
Omega Point, 177. See Christ 
omicron, see soul of the world 
omnipresence; divine, 121-5, 139, 

I45» 295 
Operative Faith, 225, 257n, 299n, 

opus and operatio, 137, 217 
original sin, 263 ; and evolution, 71 

paganism, 28 

pain, i63n; essential to spiritualiza- 
tion of being, 43, m-12; and the 
multitude, 98, 103, no. See suffer- 

Paissy, 115 

pantheism, 15, 101, 12m, 132, 183, 
188; Christian, 12m, 189; cor- 
rection 35; and cosmic conscious- 
ness, 293 ; and God, 47-8 ; material- 
ist and spiritual, 273; non- 
Christian, 28-9; pagan, 66, 121; 
philosophically catastrophic, 274; 
and survival of the monad, 45; 
two meanings of term, i5n; 
and 'universal element', 272, 275, 

Panthiisme et Christianisme, I5n, 12m 
pantheist; isolation and diminution 

of personality, 30-1 
Parousia, 91 
participated being, 47, 190, 201 ; and 

necessary being, 295 ; and uncreated 

being, 26$n 
Pascal, Blaise, 19 
Passion, 51, 67 
passions, 99, 108, no 
passivities, 61-2, 80, 216; acceptance 

of, 257, 300; divinization, 213; 

and the mystic, 130-2; part played 
by, i27n, 215-16 

past; place taken by future, 169-70; 
spurious security and attraction, 

Paul, St., 50, 58, n8n, I42n, I48n, 
i69n, 175, 250, 297; concept of 
Pleroma, 2o6n, 2i3n, 297n; and 
immensity of God, 2i4n 

Pavant, 93 

peace; nature and value, 278, 279, 
281; programme for a true p., 

Peter, St., 226 

Phinomine Humain, Le t (1928), 83n 

Phenomenon of Man, The, 34n, 36n, 
i94n, 287n 

philanthropy, 108; transformation 
into charity, 65 

physical; use of adjective by Teil- 
hard, 17m 

physics, 63; of the experiential, 

pleiad, 16, 47, 155, 158 

Pleroma, 2o6n, 214, 220, 297, 302. 
See plenitude of Christ 

polyp, 19 

polyvalence of cosmos, 238-9 

Prat, Ferdinand, S. J., I42n 

prayer, 144; to cosmic Christ, 69-70; 
and modification of individual's 
future, 239, 240; Mystical Milieu: 
final p., 145-7 

priest; function in war, 223-4; work 
of universal salvation, 219 

Priest, The, 10, I42n, 177, 203-4, 

progress, 38, 73; belief in human, 38; 
Church and p., 85; common goal 
condition of human p., 285 ; con- 
cern for, 42-3; human p. and re- 
velation, 87-8; and kingdom of 
God, 54, 56; painful advance, 66 



promised land, 35, 288 
Promised Land, The, 277, 289 
prophets; role of, 255-6 
providence, 131, 161, 170; pluri- 

providentiaT character of world, 

238-9, 240 
Pseudo-Dionysius, 21211 
purity, 144; creative function and the 

individual, 107-12 and the mystic, 

134, 135 

quality; born of but higher than 
quantity, 166 

real, 153; assault upon by Christians, 
89; and die mystic, 139 

reason, i67n 

Recherche, Travail et Adoration, 76n 

recurrence; law of, 158 

reflexes, 39 

Reflexion de Yinergie, La, 79, i28n 

Reflexions sur le bonheur, 22on 

religion; and evolution, 87; impo- 
tence, 85. See Christianity, Church 

Renaissance, 76-7, 84 

renunciation, 172; mystery of, 81; 
and progress, 89; and simplicity, 
1 12-13 

reproduction, 104, 157 

research, 285; duty of, 73-4, 22on; 
life-giving passion, 260; and re- 
velation, 83 ; sacred task, 80, 88 

resurrection; of the body, 64, 267, 
268 ; of Christ, 20<Sn 

revelation, 47, 73, 89, 185, 252; and 
enlightenment, 256; and human 
progress, 87-8; and organization 
and needs of mankind, 82-4; world 
of, 81 

Sacred Heart of Christ; litany, 186 
Sainte-Foy-les-Lyon, 203 

Schopenhauer, Arthur, I22n 

science, 25, 63, 85, 138, 183; and 
Christian faith, 243 ; and mastery of 
the future, 232-3 ; and mastery of 
the universe, 34-5; and suffering, 
67, 68; and superman, 34-5, 38 

scientism, 233, 234 

secularism, 85 

sense-perception, 120; and thought, 
157; two phases, 11 8-19 

separatism, 262n 

Signification et la valeur constructrice de 
la souffrance, La, i27n, 21 3n 

sin, 67, 69, i63n; re-establishment of 
the multitude, 102-3; and suffer- 
ing, 71 

Smulders, Pierre, S. J., i3on 

social state, 183 

socialization, 75 

society, 19, 38 

Soissons, 203 

Solages, Mgr. Bruno de, 11 

sorrow, 126, 127, 132 

soul; collective, 37; convergence of 
souls on Christ, 97-8; crisis pro- 
duced by appearance of human 
soul, 104-5; death of souls, 96; 
emergence of, 201; and grace 48; 
human s. incompletely spiritual- 
ized, 156-7; immortal and made 
for union, 97; interdependence of 
souls, 48-9; isolation and pain of 
individuation, 100-2; lament of the 
s., 44; simplicity of s. and immen- 
sity of space, 165; souls and 
Christianity, 46-9; souls not iso- 
lated monads, 57; souls and soul 
of the world, 18 1-2; two phases of 
development, 261-4; and unity of 
cosmos, 22; yearning for total 
union, 101-2 

soul of the world, 168, 177-8, 180-3, 
185, 189, 273, 298n; attraction for 



soul of the world [contd.] 
modern man,i84; and Christ: not 
two opposed realities, 187 
Soul of the World, The, 10, 177-8 
spirit; absorption of matter by, 41; 
assured term to developments of 
s., 80; birth, o6n; divinization by 
grace, 142; emergence and evo- 
lution of, 78-81; genesis of, 154-6; 
liberation and development, 137- 
9, 217; natural unification, 2<j8n; 
reactions on matter, 37; reduction 
to matter, 39; spiritualized sub- 
stance liable to attack by lower 
forces, 1 60-1; and super-mankind, 

3 8 
spirit of the earth, 177 

spirituality; consequences of develop- 
ment, 104-5; higher s. and war, 
283 ; man's s. and the multitude, 99 

spiritualization; of the conscious, 154; 
by union, 156; of universe, 41 

Strasbourg, 249 

Struggle against the Multitude, The, 10, 
93, 116, I22n, I34n, 153, i63n, 
I72n, 207n, 287n 

Stylites, 82 

success, 221. See failure 

suffering; and the Christian, 68; 
'classical* and 'evolutionary* inter- 
pretations, 71; decreases as Christ 
becomes incarnate in universe, no; 
effects simplification of being, in; 
inseparable from mankind in 
genesis, 67; and the mystic, 132-3; 
and perfection, 173 ; and progress, 
89; role and value, 43-5, 54, 68, 
221 ; and substitution of Christ for 
soul, 261 ; waste-product of world's 
activities, 67, 68n 

superhumanity, 46 

superman, 85 

super-mankind, 38 

supernatural; and integration of the 
natural, 243-4; and nature, 2i9n 

Teilhard de Chardin, Francoise, 289 

Teilhard de Chardin, Marguerite- 
Marie, ('Guiguite'), 9, 115, 203 

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre; evan- 
gelist of Christ in universe, 219-20; 
and ideals of priesthood, 221-2; 
intellectual testament, 10, 13, 70; 
optimism, 283n; personal note in 
apologetics, 88n; reliance of 
apologetics on natural value of 
man, 286n; style, n, 13; war- 
time letters and essays, 9-1 1 

Teillard-Chambon, Alice, 9 

Teillard-Chambon, Marguerite, 9, 
73. 93. "5» I22n, 151, 225, 249, 
277, 289 

Teresa of Avila, St., 116, I48n 

Thomas Aquinas, St., 59n, 95n, 178 

thought; basis of everything, 41; 
birth of, 96; intensification, 34; 
materialist and spiritualist views, 
155; reflective, 24, i56n; trans- 
formed sense-perception, 157 

threshold; biological, 35 

Tientsin, 205n 

time; immensity of t. and space, 

Transformist Paradox, The, i3on 

transience, 21, 171; effect of spirit, 
168; and immanence, 167-8; and 
matter, 40; problem of, 165-7; 
seat of t. spiritual, 170 

transparency, 122, 125 

transubstantiation; extension to uni- 
verse, 207 

Trinity, 188, 255n, 256 

tropisms, 39 

truth; enlargement of, 140 

ultimate element, 123 



ultra-human; essential components, 

unbelief; problem of, 179-80 

union; yearning for total, 101 

unique essential, 290-1, 300-1; two- 
fold power, 299 

unity; beneath plurality, 205 

universal centre, 141-2. See universal 

universal element; and Christian sol- 
ution, 294-8; constitutes mystical 
milieu, 300; entitative function, 
274-5; God's creative action, 295; 
informing supreme principle, 
275n; and pantheism, 272-3, 274; 
and pantheist solution: (critique), 
292-3; perception of, 290-1; ulti- 
mately Christ, 297-8; unitive 
action, 299-300, 301 

Universal Element, The, I5n, 12m, 
271, 289 

universal milieu, 120, 168-9. See 
divine milieu 

universe; communion with, 125-6; 
consecration of, 205 ; creative evo- 
lution and creative union, 157; 
divinization, 146; an evolution, 
59n, 68n; inchoative nature, 167; 
infinite value, 55; information by 
Christ, 254; invariable power of 
development, 165 ; love of Christ 
prime mover, 106-7; the new, 
266n, 268-9; ontological drift, 78n. 
See cosmos; world 

Valensin, Auguste, S. J., 2i6n, 244n 
Vann, Gerald, O. P., 11 
Verhaeren, £mile, 10m 

Verzy, 191, 202 

virginity, 85, 107, 197-8, 199 

virtues, 109 

Vision of the Past, The, 36n, 79n 

Vulliez-Sermet, Pere, S. J., 203-4 

war; crisis of growth, 281 ; and future 
and human effort, 280-1; per- 
manent lesson, 283; results and 
value, 278-9, 287 

Wells, H. G., 236n 

will; communion of, 216; power of 
w. and Christian faith, 243; pure 
intent of, 216 

word; extension of incarnate, 220; 
incarnate, 186, 187, 2o8n, 217, 286, 
297; plenitude of incarnate, 206; 
redemptive function, 106; uni- 
fying activity of incarnate, 253. See 

work; and act, 217; primacy of, 33; 
sacred nature of man's, 220; value 
of, 44 

world; damned portion of, 90; faith 
in w. and in God, 59, 9m; love 
of w. and love of God: conflict and 
reconciliation, 55-7, 62, 299-300; 
love of w. and supreme renuncia- 
tion, 66-8; mastery of, 77, 91; 
penetration into man, 11 7-1 9; 
reconciliation between Christianity 
and w., 75-6; scientific conquest, 
80; supernaturalization, 297; trans- 
formation by Christian faith, 246- 
7. See cosmos; universe 

Zeno, 166